Recent Mover Renters: American Housing Survey Part II – Why Renters Leave Their Previous Unit

In Part I of this series, we focused on an overview of recent mover renters from the 2009 American Housing Survey and their previous units. In Part II, we will focus on why renters left their previous units.

Reasons For Leaving Previous Unit

Recent mover renters (those who had moved in the 12 months prior to survey) were asked a series of questions about their previous unit and their reasons for moving.   Respondents were first asked to list their reasons for moving, with the ability to give more than one answer (as a result, answers total more than 100%).  Here is the list of responses, in order of frequency:

Reason for Leaving Previous Unit 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009
To be closer to work/school/other 10.0% 12.6% 11.1% 11.9% 14.8% 14.6% 15.9% 12.4% 14.4% 12.1% 13.3%
To establish own household 13.5% 13.9% 15.1% 15.8% 14.9% 15.0% 14.8% 15.4% 13.6% 11.5% 11.3%
Needed larger house or apartment 12.1% 12.0% 13.1% 12.7% 13.9% 12.3% 13.1% 13.0% 12.3% 10.6% 10.6%
New job or job transfer 15.0% 11.7% 11.6% 12.7% 13.7% 14.2% 14.3% 11.8% 13.5% 10.9% 10.3%
Wanted better home 10.1% 12.2% 10.8% 11.2% 10.9% 11.0% 12.1% 12.6% 12.3% 11.3% 10.0%
Other, family/person related 11.7% 11.0% 11.3% 11.0% 11.4% 10.6% 11.1% 11.4% 11.6% 10.1% 9.5%
Wanted lower rent or maintenance 7.7% 8.6% 7.8% 7.1% 7.0% 6.9% 8.7% 8.4% 7.8% 6.5% 8.7%
Other housing related reasons 7.5% 7.7% 7.8% 6.4% 7.0% 8.1% 7.0% 8.2% 8.2% 6.8% 6.4%
Other, financial/employment related 5.3% 6.4% 6.0% 5.6% 7.1% 6.2% 7.4% 6.6% 6.6% 5.3% 5.4%
Not reported 3.1% 2.5% 2.1% 2.3% 0.0% 3.4% 2.7% 3.4% 2.2% 6.2% 3.7%
Private Displacement 6.0% 6.3% 5.1% 5.6% NA 3.4% 3.5% 2.8% 2.7% 3.6% 3.1%
Widowed, divorced, or separated 6.4% 5.6% 5.6% 5.2% 2.9% 2.5% 2.9% 2.9% 2.9% 2.4% 2.3%
Change from owner to renter 2.0% 1.4% 1.8% 1.5% 1.4% 1.6% 1.5% 1.7% 1.7% 1.3% 1.4%
Evicted from residence NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.9% 0.6% 1.3%
Married 2.2% 2.5% 2.3% 2.5% 2.5% 2.1% 1.6% 1.8% 2.0% 1.5% 1.1%
Government displacement 0.8% 1.0% 1.0% 1.3% NA 0.7% 1.0% 0.7% 0.7% 0.6% 1.1%
Disaster loss (fire, flood, etc.) 0.6% 0.7% 0.6% 0.5% 0.4% 0.6% 0.6% 0.7% 0.6% 1.1% 1.0%
Other 14.1% 14.0% 17.4% 18.2% 12.7% 13.6% 14.6% 15.4% 16.1% 12.7% 14.3%

The top reason for households leaving their previous unit was to be closer to work/school/other.  This is one of the few reasons that increased in popularity from 2007.  Given recent increases in gas prices, it is not surprising that many households would make the decision to move closer to the things that matter to them.

The next four reasons for moving all decreased or stayed level in popularity from 2007, and the recession likely had an impact on the number of households who moved for each of these four reasons:

  • Recessions tend to suppress household creation as singles double up and take roommates or move back home with family. Thus, fewer households moved to create their own household.
  • Households often choose to live in more crowded quarters or postpone having children during a recession, and thus affecting the number of households choosing to move because they needed a larger home.
  • Recessions also tend to lower the number of households moving to take a new job or as a result of a job transfer.
  • Recessions also tend to suppress the number of households able to move because they want a better home

Another recession-impacted figure is the number of renters stating that they wanted lower rent or maintenance, which returned the greatest percentage point increase of all noted reasons, from 6.5% to 8.7%.

It is also worth noting that the number of households moving due to eviction more than doubled, from 0.6% to 1.3%. The AHS has only been asking about evictions since 2005, so limited historical data are available.

Main Reason For Leaving Previous Unit

Since 1997, AHS recent-mover renter respondents have been asked, after listing their reasons for leaving their previous unit, to choose one of the reasons as their main reason for moving. The following table lists their responses:

Main Reason for Leaving Previous Unit 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009
To be closer to work/school/other 11.1% 11.4% 11.7% 9.0% 10.5% 9.9% 11.0%
To establish own household 11.7% 11.5% 11.0% 11.7% 10.7% 10.1% 10.0%
New job or job transfer 12.2% 12.5% 12.1% 10.5% 11.6% 9.4% 9.5%
Needed larger house or apartment 10.3% 9.2% 9.3% 9.6% 8.9% 8.4% 8.6%
Other, family/personal related 8.3% 7.7% 8.2% 8.4% 8.8% 8.3% 7.8%
Wanted better home 7.2% 6.8% 7.2% 7.5% 7.8% 8.0% 6.9%
Wanted lower rent or maintenance 4.9% 4.4% 5.6% 5.9% 5.2% 5.0% 6.8%
Not reported 3.5% 5.1% 4.6% 4.9% 3.8% 8.5% 6.1%
Married, widowed, divorced, or separated 6.5% 5.9% 5.7% 6.1% 6.3% 5.5% 4.9%
Other housing related reasons 5.1% 4.9% 4.5% 5.2% 5.2% 5.1% 4.8%
Other, financial/employment related 4.2% 3.7% 3.8% 3.9% 3.9% 3.7% 4.1%
All reported reasons equal 1.7% 2.3% 1.4% 1.7% 0.8% 3.9% 3.5%
Disaster loss (fire, flood, etc.) 0.4% 0.6% 0.6% 0.7% 0.5% 0.9% 1.0%
Change from owner to renter or renter to owner 0.9% 1.0% 0.7% 1.1% 0.7% 0.9% 0.9%
Private displacement 1.2% 1.6% 1.4% 1.1% 1.0% 1.1% 0.9%
Evicted from residence 0.7% 0.2% 0.9%
Government displacement 0.4% 0.3% 0.3% 0.3% 0.3% 0.3% 0.4%
Other 10.5% 10.8% 11.8% 12.4% 13.2% 10.6% 12.1%

When forced to choose one primary reason for moving, the priority order is similar.  “New job or job transfer” moves up to third, dropping “needed larger house or apartment” to fourth. “Wanted better home” and “other family/personal related” trade spots at fifth and sixth.

Conviction Index

A potential renter may give a leasing agent several reasons for wanting to move, just as the respondents to the AHS were allowed to cite several reasons for moving.  However, a leasing agent may not be able to tell which of the reasons a potential renter may cite for moving is the key factor in swaying that renter’s decision.  We compared the number of respondents who gave a reason for leaving their previous unit to those who named that reason as their main reason for moving. The result is a percentage that we are calling the Conviction Index.  The following table illustrates the Conviction Index for 2009:

Reason for Leaving Previous Unit Conviction Index
Disaster loss (fire, flood, etc.) 95.3%
New job or job transfer 92.0%
To establish own household 88.8%
Other 84.5%
To be closer to work/school/other 82.8%
Needed larger house or apartment 81.0%
Wanted lower rent or maintenance 77.4%
Other, financial/employment related 76.4%
Other housing related reasons 74.1%
Wanted better home 68.8%
Change from owner to renter 66.8%
Evicted from residence 66.2%
Other, family/person related 43.3%
Government displacement 32.5%
Private displacement 30.0%

As the above table indicates, the most strongly held reasons for moving are those relating to necessity rather than choice, headed by disaster loss, new or transfered job or household establishment.

Next in this series, we look at reasons why recent mover households select one neighborhood over another

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  1. Pingback: Recent Mover Renters – American Housing Survey 2009 – Neighborhood Selection « Danter Company Blog

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