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Is the increasing divorce rate responsible for the decline in U.S. migration?

While chances are good that some of your closest friends, next-door neighbors or fellow co-workers are transplants, meaning at some point they packed up and moved here to Florida from another state, chances are also good that you've met increasingly fewer of these transplants over the years.

As it turns out, this decline in migration is not unique to Florida, but rather evident throughout the entire country. Indeed, statistics show that Americans are now moving only about half as much as they did 50 years ago. As for the reason why, a researcher from the University of Connecticut has advanced a fascinating theory: the increase in the divorce rate.

What exactly did the study find?     

After defining migration as a person living in one state one year and another state the following year, the UConn researcher focused on demographic data on child custody and divorce maintained by the University of Michigan.

Specifically, he examined migration patterns among divorced people with and without children, and found that while divorced people in general were less likely to move, this was especially true among those with children.

Why would divorced people be less inclined to move?

The theory is that the gradual move of family court systems away from the custody model in which one parent is awarded primary physical custody (typically the mother) to joint custody is largely responsible for this phenomenon.

“Thirty years ago courts in general awarded custody to the mother,” he states. “The father might move away, and see his child in the summer. Now fathers’ attitudes toward children have changed, and if they want anything to do with their children, they have to hold up their end of the custody.”

Other factors he identified as helping drive this trend include both parents working, the ease of telecommuting, and the evolution of technology such that long-distance communication is now much easier.

Couldn't other factors be attributed to the drop in U.S. migration?

Curiously, the UConn researcher found that the decline in U.S. migration couldn't be attributed to other seemingly obvious factors such as the rapidly aging population, home ownership or even poor economic conditions.

It will be interestingly to see how this trend will affect the diversity of the individual states over the coming decades.

If you have questions about a divorce-related matter, including any issues relating to out-of-state custody, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.  

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