More homeowners are staying in their homes longer because of the struggling economy, according to Daniel Hartley, a research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Hartley cited 2009 data from the U.S. Census Bureau that showed a steady increase in the percentage of people who live in the same house as they did a year ago, from just below 84% in 2005 up to 85.5% in 2009.
The percentage of people living in a different state between the same time period decreased, from approximately 2.5% in 2005 to below 2.1% in 2009.
Hartley said these correlated patterns are referred to as the “spatial lock-in” phenomenon. For example, higher foreclosures obviously make it less likely that people will be living in the same place they were a year ago. But, spatial lock-in occurs when conditions, such as unwillingness to strategically default on the mortgage or an inability to sell the home, physically prevent a homeowner from considering moving to a new location.
Hartley found that, over the past decade, homeowner moving patterns — including spatial lock-in — have fluctuated simultaneously with economic stability. In 2001, the percentage of people living in the same house spiked to nearly 85% and remained at an elevated level throughout the early 2000s recession. At that time, the percentage of people who lived in a different state than they did one year ago dropped from 2.75% to 2.2% by 2003.