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More Americans cite money issues for moving than Covid risk

About one-third of adults surveyed in November cited financial stressors as the main factor in their decision to relocate, up from one-fifth in June.
Image: Levi Benjamin-Brown, 5, helps him mother Kyala Brown unpack does of toys at their new home in El Cerrito, Calif
Levi Benjamin-Brown, 5, helps his mother, Kyala Brown, unpack toys at their new home in El Cerrito, Calif. in September.Brittany Hosea-Small / AFP via Getty Images file

More Americans say financial struggles have motivated them to move during the pandemic than fear of getting the virus, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Thursday.

About one-third of adults surveyed in November cited financial stressors as the main factor in their decision to relocate, with 17 percent citing job loss and 15 percent financial problems other than job loss.

That is up from one-fifth of adults surveyed last June, or 18 percent who cited job loss or other financial reasons for moving.

The Pew Research Center surveyed 12,648 U.S. adults from Nov. 18-29, 2020, and then compared those results with those from a survey conducted June 4-10, 2020.

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"What changed between our June survey and our November survey was that the people who moved were increasingly likely to tell us that they were moving for financial reasons. And that makes sense because as the pandemic is wearing on, it's having more of an impact on the economy," said D’Vera Cohn, author of the new report and senior writer with the Pew Research Center. "It certainly was notable that we have about a third of those in November telling us that financial reasons, including loss of their job, was the main reason they moved."

In the June survey, 28 percent said they had moved because of the Covid-19 risk where they were living, compared with 14 percent of those surveyed in November. Other factors in the November survey included wanting to be near family or a partner, college campuses closing and too many pandemic restrictions where they lived.

Overall, 1 in 20 U.S. adults in the November survey, or 5 percent, said they had moved either permanently or temporarily because of the pandemic, somewhat higher than the 3 percent who said so in the June survey. In the latest survey, 10 percent of adults said they either moved or had someone else move in with them because of the pandemic, up slightly from 8 percent in June.

For people in the November survey who had someone move in with them, more than a third, or 36 percent, said that financial struggles, including job loss, were the main factor.

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Young adults 18 to 29 were the age group most likely to have moved due to the pandemic in both surveys, with 11 percent saying they did so in the November survey. Adults in lower-income households were more likely to say they moved because of the outbreak (9 percent), compared with those in middle-income households (3 percent) and upper-income households (4 percent). Hispanic and Black adults were more likely to move (9 percent and 7 percent) than white adults (4 percent).

Cohn also said it was striking to see whether those surveyed considered moving as positive or not, with about 3 in 10 saying that moving had a negative impact on their life.

"For many, it was not a happy move," she said. "I think there's still a lot of uncertainty about the impact of this outbreak, and what it might do either to short-term or long-term residential patterns, so we'll be keeping an eye on this as, as time goes on."