Home Finding Happiness The Nomadic Life of 36 Million Americans

The Nomadic Life of 36 Million Americans

by Ali Wenzke
Moving Stats in the U.S.

I interviewed with the National Security Agency my senior year of college. An “imminent” Act of Congress would determine whether my job position would be available. I decided to keep the job search open. Over the span of one month, I graduated from college in Massachusetts, got married in Florida, traveled to Tahiti, and set up shop in Maryland. Soon after I arrived in Maryland, the NSA left a message on my parents’ answering machine, “Hello. This is the National Security Agency. We would like to speak with Ali, but we can’t seem to find her.”

Contrary to what the NSA probably thought, I didn’t move around (and change my name) because we were running from the law. It was just life that led us to different places. We moved for Dan’s job, then his education, then my education, then his job, then just because we thought it was a good idea, then because we wanted to move back to where we used to live.  It’s a pretty typical story these days. I’ve been talking to lots of people about their moves. Once people start telling me their stories, they realize that they’ve got more notches on the moving post than they thought.

You’re Going to Move. You Just Don’t Know It Yet. 

9.1 remaining expected moves at age 18.

At your 18th birthday, you still have 9.1 expected moves remaining in your lifetime.

You might think we’ve moved a ridiculous amount of times. Ten times in eleven years seems excessive to me, too, but Dan and I are right on target. A person in the U.S. can expect to move 11.7 times in her lifetime. I’m already bracing myself for the next 1.7 times. Maybe you moved over a longer period of time, so you don’t remember those apartments you lived in right after school. Start counting to see where you fall on the spectrum. Hop tip: If you recently celebrated your 18th birthday, the time to invest in packing tape is now. You still have 9.1 more expected moves in your lifetime. Don’t get too comfortable if you recently blew out 45 candles either. You still have 2.7 moves in your future. I know. I don’t want to believe the data either. I’m so comfortable where I am right now. Those darn statisticians can be such downers.

You Are Not Alone

When you move, you feel like you’re the only one. You’re the only one begging your kids not to touch anything before a prospective buyer comes by. You’re the only one hoarding boxes from amazon. You’re the only one who can’t get that packing tape to come off the roller because it stripped off in a teeny, tiny strip.  Everyone else gets to go on living their lives, blissfully unaware of what you’re going through. They don’t have to leave friends behind. It may feel lonely, but know that you are not alone. Millions and millions of other people are going through what you are going through right now. Chances are that those friends who seem blissfully unaware remember quite vividly what you are going through. Reach out to them for help. Most of us have been through it before. If your friends have never moved ever, find comfort in the fact that they have 11.7 moves ahead of them.

Moving Stats: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Moving

The population stats are based on the 2014 U.S. Census.

Demographic mobility in the U.S. All about Moving. www.artofhappymoving.com


  • http://www.census.gov/hhes/migration
  • http://www.census.gov/data/tables/2015/demo/geographic-mobility/cps-2015.html
  • Gaquin, Deirdre A. and Gwenavere W. Dunn, eds. The Who, What, and Where of America: Understanding the American Community Survey. Lanham: Bernan Press, 2014. 255.

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