When moving, your hometown may not be the happiest choice

November 22, 2017

How close do you live to your childhood home—and have you lived in that area for your entire life, or have you moved around and then decided to return? Civic Science recently asked that survey question to a representative sample of U.S. adults.

About 33% of respondents said they currently live more than 60 miles from where they grew up—even if they have returned there after a variety of other experiences. Over 20% of those polled said that have never lived more than 10 miles from the city where they spent their childhood.

The demographic differences were fairly predictable, according to the pollsters. Younger people (particularly 18- to 24-year-olds) are more likely to live within 10 miles of their childhood homes—perhaps because they simply haven’t moved away from mom and dad yet.

Older respondents (55+) are more likely to have moved 60 miles away, for good—perhaps to retire in warmer weather.

Parents over-indexed as living within 60 miles of home but not 10, perhaps because they wanted to live close to their kids’ grandparents—but not too close.

Respondents in rural, suburban and urban areas were evenly divided. But people from the U.S. Northeast – especially New York and Pennsylvania – were the most likely to live within 10 miles of where they grew up; while people in the U.S. West were least likely to be 10-milers.

Conversely, people in the U.S. Midwest are the most likely to live within 60 miles of home. People in the U.S. South were the most likely to move 60 miles from home and never return.

The most obvious motivating factor, in the researchers’ opinion, was level of education. People who went away to college or grad school were more likely to migrate further from home. People with high school degrees or less stay closer to home.

The 10-miler crew were slightly more likely to be Democrats. Independents were more likely to move away and come back.

But which respondents are happiest? The pollsters found that those respondents who have never moved more than 60 miles from home are the happiest, by a few percentage points. 

The people who have never moved more than 10 miles from where they grew up are the least likely to be unhappy.

People who moved 60 miles from home, only to return, are 23 percentage points less likely to be happy and twice as likely to be unhappy than the next closest group.

Why is this group so down in the dumps? The researchers don’t know for sure. Maybe it’s because they returned home under some kind of duress: This ‘boomerang’ group was 20% more likely than average to be divorced and 20% more likely to live alone. They’re the most likely of all the groups to carry significant debt—particularly, student loans and credit cards. Maybe they had to return home to care for a sick parent. Or maybe they chased a dream they couldn’t fulfill. It’s hard to tell without a doubt.

Research contact: contact: jd@civicscience.com

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