While residential mobility rates nationwide have been on the decline, the rate of moving in the Washington region remains higher than most places. 

Over the 2008 to 2010 period, the average one-year mobility rate in the D.C. region was 14.2 percent, a full two percentage points higher than the U.S. rate.  The highest mobility rates in our area were in Arlington and Alexandria, where one out of every five households moved each year. 

The Washington area has been a particular draw for migrants recently because our region added jobs in the early part of the economic recovery when the rest of the country wasn’t.  According to American Community Survey data analyzed for a study conducted by the GMU Center for Regional Analysis and RBIntel, each year between 2008 and 2010 nearly 90,000 households moved into the Washington metro area from other places in the U.S. and around the world. Another 200,000 changed residences within the metro area. 

Let’s take a closer look at this trend:

● Where did they come from?  People moved into the Washington area from all over the country and the world.  But more than 16 percent of movers (about 15,000 households) were relatively local, moving into the D.C. metro area from other places in Maryland and Virginia.  New York and California each sent about 5,000 households to the region each year. And 70 percent of all movers in the metro area moved from one place to another within the region. 

●Where did they move to?  The biggest share of movers settled in the Northern Virginia suburbs.  Nearly 20 percent of recent movers (including in-migrants from outside the region and people moving within the metro area) moved to Fairfax County.  About 15 percent settled in the District.  And 16 percent chose Montgomery County.

●Who are these movers?  Overall, movers tend to be younger and are more likely to be racial or ethnic minorities.  They are more likely to live by themselves or with roommates and they are less likely than non-movers to be married or have children.  More than one-third of movers to the region were under age 30, compared with less than 10 percent of the overall household population.  One-third of recent movers in the region live alone and 15 percent live with roommates.  Only one-quarter of recent movers in the D.C. area bought a house (compared with a regional homeownership rate of nearly 70 percent.)

●Will they continue to come?  In 2008 and 2009, the D.C. metro area was about the only place adding jobs in the U.S.  More recently, however, other metro areas have surpassed the Washington area in terms of job growth.  In the near-term, area companies and organizations will be competing for talented workers who now have more choices about where they can find a job.  The Washington area can continue to be a magnet for migrants if it maintains and improves on quality of life issues — housing affordability, transportation, cultural and recreational amenities — while broadening its economic base.

More market analysis by Lisa A. Sturtevant

Lisa A. Sturtevant is an assistant research professor at George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis.