Before Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1908, the average American stayed within 12 miles of home. Even when automobiles became cheaper and better roads improved travel, leaving town for leisure or work merited an item in the local newspaper. As the economy expanded, people traveled farther and moved elsewhere, pursuing aspirations beyond rural towns.
Today, though, the United States is seeing record lows in mobility. Though the information revolution eliminated communication barriers, an evolving economy appears to have slowed the rate at which Americans change their geographic residences: They’re moving at the lowest rate since 1948, when the Census Bureau began tracking mobility. The trend is not new, however. As economists from the Federal Reserve and the University of Notre Dame observed in 2011: “Internal migration has fallen noticeably since the 1980s, reversing increases from earlier in the century.”
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