BUSINESS
11/15/2011 05:04 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2011

Americans Moving At Lowest Rate In Recorded History: Census

Americans last year moved at the lowest rate in recorded history, according to a new report from the Census Bureau.

Between 2010 and 2011, 11.6 percent of Americans changed residences, according to Census data. That's the lowest rate since 1948, when the agency started keeping track of Americans’ moving patterns. The moving rate fell to 11.9 percent in 2008, then a record low, but bounced back in 2009 and 2010.

Most of the decline was due to a drop in the number of Americans changing residences within the same county, the study found. A sizable minority -- nearly 45 percent -- of those who did move to a different state or county cited jobs as the reason for their move, while 40 percent of Americans who moved less than 50 miles said they did it for housing reasons.

One explanation for the low moving rate may be because of the high number of homeowners that owe more on their homes than they're worth -- and hence aren't in a position to sell their homes. Eleven million homeowners -- or 1 in four homeowners -- has an underwater mortgage, according to 24/7 Wall St. Half of borrowers with prime loans, or loans made to those with good credit, will also likely end up underwater, according to a report last month from Fitch Ratings.

The high level of underwater mortgages may have dire consequences for homeowners seeking jobs. Many of the regions with the most underwater mortgages are also those with the highest levels of unemployment, 24/7 Wall St. found, indicating that Americans in search of jobs may be trapped in their homes. The unemployment rate has been hovering at 9 percent for months.

In a recession, renting certainly has its advantages, especially with a recent study finding it's renters, not homeowners that are more likely to move during a recession, according to the Washington Post. And that's before counting the high costs of the move itself.

And home prices are likely to only continue to fall, making homeowners more hesitant to sell. Housing prices may be headed for the first triple-dip since the 1990s, according to an analysis by Fistserv. Housing prices have already fallen 32 percent since their peak in 2006, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home prices index.

The housing crash has caused homeownership rates to plunge to their lowest level since the Great Depression, the Census Bureau found last month. In addition, it's made young people less confident in the idea of homeownership, according to a recent study from the Boston Federal Reserve.

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