What Motivates People to Choose Where They Live?

May 29, 2020

Why do people decide to stay or leave a community? A new joint survey from the Urban Institute and the Knight Foundation seeks to find the true motivations behind Americans’ choices for places to live. The survey of more than 11,000 consumers was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few highlights from their findings:

Quality of life matters in people’s decisions to move or stay, and it drives how attached they feel to their metro area. Quality of life accounts for about a third of moves to metro areas nationwide, the survey finds. “People who choose to live in their metro area because of its quality of life express significantly stronger sentiments of attachment than those who live in their metro area for a different reason, such as family or jobs,” the study notes.Those who move from other places usually cite quality of life, affordability of the housing, or particular neighborhood amenities. Natives to the area usually cite the area’s vibrancy, strong economy, or affordability.

Access to recreational areas and safe places to work and play tended to be linked to higher feelings of attachment. Recreational and safe areas can prompt consumers to identify more with the culture and lifestyle of the area and influence a stronger preference for staying, the study notes.

Generational, race, and household income all significantly shape levels of attachment and access to quality-of-life amenities. People of color and those who are low-income are more likely to choose to move to a place or stay there due to the quality of life. As for the breakdown by age, older generations tend to feel more satisfied and to identify more with the lifestyle and culture of the metro area, and are more inclined to stay in their community than other generations. “Millennials and Generation Z have significantly higher social bridging capital across class, race, and language and are the most likely to be natives of the metro area where they live, perhaps due to the diversity of this generation and their life stages,” the study notes.