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Do You Stay Or Go? Why Most American’s Live Where They Do

Hanna KielarJanuary 04, 2020

Growing up, I thought I’d never leave my hometown. There is a university just 10 minutes down the road from my house and plenty of jobs, family and friends in the area.

Surprisingly, I moved across the country for school and never went back. I’ve been gone for over a decade – something I never imagined would happen. But now that my husband and I are at a crossroads in our career and have a young son, we’re considering where we want to put down roots. Do we go back to the familiarity of one of our hometowns or do we make a home elsewhere?

This isn’t a decision that we’re alone in facing. A majority of our friends have recently faced the “where do we live?” conundrum as they look to buy a house. How do most people decide what’s best for them? A new survey sheds some light on how some of us make this personal decision.

How Do Most American’s Choose Where To Go?

The North American Moving Services company published a survey: Why American’s Move. They interviewed 2,000 Americans 25 years of age and older to understand why they live where they do.

The results? Nearly 72% of Americans live in or close to the city where they grew up. And women are more likely to stay near home: 75% of them stay near their hometown compared to 68% of men.

How do people choose to stay or go?

Choosing To Live Near Their Hometown

According to the survey, of the nearly 72% of people who choose to live near family, 50% of them do so to remain near family. And another 24% do so because of familiarity and comfort.

Joe Rungee, and engineer from Nashville, Tennessee, is among those who chose to live near their hometown. After moving away to California for school, he ultimately chose to return home to start his professional career. His driving force? His family and friends. “My close relationships are something I really value, which factored into my decision to move home,” says Rungee.

Also important to him was affordability, which is a factor for 13% of survey respondents who decided to stay near their home. While Nashville property prices are on the rise, he really wanted to live in a place where he could afford to buy a home on his salary. “I’ve lived in Nashville for less than a year and I’ve been able to buy a home, which was really important to me,” Rungee says. “That wouldn’t be possible in some areas.”

While Rungee was lucky to find a job so close to his hometown, not everyone who wants to live near family is able to do so. Of survey respondents who don’t live in or near the city where they grew up, 30% of them still remain in the same state. That includes Katie Bloodworth and her husband Russell, who have settled in Bentonville, Arkansas.

After moving to North Carolina for graduate school, Russell received a job offer from Walmart and the couple moved to Bentonville. While not in her hometown, Katie still resides in the state her parents live in. Bentonville provided the perfect place to balance career aspirations while still being close to family – Katie’s parents live 3.5 hours away and Russell’s parents are five hours away.

They’ve found the perfect fit with Bentonville. “It was just a no brainer. The Walton family invests so heavily in the town, we have big-city luxury with small-town familiarity.” And they’ve worked to make it easy for their family to visit. The couple purchased homes in downtown Bentonville, which they run as vacation rentals. But when their families come to town to visit, they use the homes as comfortable places for them to stay.

Choosing To Move Away From Their Hometown

If nearly 72% of Americans choose to live near their hometown, why do the other 28% choose to move away?

Most people move away because of their careers. Emily Jordan, a vice president of marketing in San Francisco, left her home state of Indiana in pursuit of different career opportunities. Once she left, she realized that moving also provided her with another benefit: it expanded her perspective. She now expects to live away from her home state forever and hopes she can convince her parents to move closer. “Being in different, sometimes bigger cities helped me find communities that eventually felt more like home than Indiana.”

While jobs are the primary reason people leave, they’re not the only one. Of survey respondents, 12% left for a lower cost of living area and 12% left for a change in climate or environment.

My husband and I also fall into this category. We’ve moved around the world for careers, away from a hometown I’d never thought I’d leave. And while career was our initial driver to move, now that we’ve been gone for so long and lived in so many different places, we see the benefits of settling down in various areas of the country – the opportunity to find a lower cost of living area and an environment that supports the different activities we enjoy.

For Lance Cothern, personal finance expert and founder of MoneyManifesto.com, cost of living and a change in environment were the primary driving forces for his recent relocation. His family recently decided to move from Panama Beach City, Florida, even though it meant leaving family, a difficult decision for them to make. The primary reason they made the move? Lack of opportunities for his son.

Cothern and his wife found themselves in a fortunate position: he is self-employed and his wife, who is currently staying home with their son, is a registered nurse. This meant they could live practically anywhere. Their criteria for a new home were good schools, an affordable cost of living, and reasonable taxes. After considering other places, they’re now in the process of moving to the northeast suburbs of Indianapolis, Indiana.

He admits that moving away from family is difficult, but “ultimately, we decided we needed to do what was best for us and our son, so we decided to move.”

What’s Your Preference?

Choosing where to live can be complicated for many adults. The desire to balance family and familiarity of your hometown, with career and environment changes can be a challenging decision for most people to make. But knowing that other people have faced this decision in the past and are happy with their outcome is comforting for those (like me) who are still trying to figure it all out. After all, home is wherever you make it.

If you’re ready to look for a new home, whether it’s in your hometown or in another area of the country, start your journey by searching listings at Rocket HomesSM. You’ll even be able to see what it’s like to live in certain homes based on things in the neighborhood like schools, local businesses and what people in the area like to do.

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    Hanna Kielar

    Hanna Kielar is an Associate Section Editor for Rocket Companies focused on personal finance, recruiting and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.