Why Do Houstonians Move? Better Homes, Better Neighborhoods and Better Commutes

Leah Binkovitz | @leahbink | January 23, 2017

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A new home being built in Houston’s Spring Branch neighborhood. Image by Ryan Holeywell.

Houston is a city in flux, adding new residents even amid an oil slump that has caused ripple effects beyond the energy industry.

The decision of where to live — for new Houstonians and locals alike — is driven by a slew of factors, from schools to commutes to costs.

But what’s the biggest factor? In Houston, one of the most significant reasons people reported moving between 2013 and 2015 was their desire for a bigger, better quality home. That’s according to recently-released numbers from the American Community Survey.

It found that some 30 percent of recently relocated Houstonians said their desire for a nicer house was part of the draw of their residence. A better neighborhood and the chance to form their own household were some of the other big reasons listed for a move.

Check out the chart below, which breaks down the reasons why Houstonians’ sought to move, by race/ethnicity and poverty level. (Article continues below chart)

New jobs and transfers drove a lot of the moves as well, but that depended on race and poverty, with only 9 percent of black householders reporting a move for a new job or transfer, compared to 29 percent of Asian householders.

That doesn’t necessarily reflect relative hiring — since not everyone who gets a new job moves — but it helps break down some of the factors feeding into Houston’s dynamic housing landscape.

Asian households, meanwhile cited both better neighborhoods and bigger, better quality homes as reasons for a move at much higher rates than all other households, painting a picture of upward mobility. Conversely, significantly more black and Hispanic households said they were forced to move than white households, suggests higher levels of vulnerability for those populations.

Similarly the numbers suggest more job-related mobility for wealthier households. This, again, doesn’t necessarily show that households at twice the level of poverty or more are getting hired when people living in poverty aren’t. But what it does is that when people with higher incomes are hired for a new job, they’re able to move.

Perhaps to that point, wealthier people also tended to report moving to reduce commute times at higher rates than poorer households. Predictably, for those households, reducing housing costs was a bigger priority than for those living at twice the poverty rate or higher.

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Leah Binkovitz

Leah Binkovitz is Senior Editor with the Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

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