Why aren't Americans moving anymore?

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January is a good time to take stock of your career, and with the economy perking up, perhaps you should to consider making a dramatic change. After all, what's more American than relocating for opportunity?

But even as careers get shorter — the average millennial will have seven jobs by age 28 — and the gig economy encourages all sorts of creative work arrangements, a funny thing has happened to the idea of heading "West."

Americans don't really move much anymore.

In fact, the rate of interstate moves has fallen by 50% in a single generation. In the 1980s, about 3% of the population moved to a new state every year. Today, that figure has fallen to less than 1.5%. The rate has steadily dropped, and it's dropping across demographics, and through both good times and bad, suggesting it's a trend with staying power.

Economists are worried about this. Movement suggests opportunity, so a decrease in migration suggests the "American Frontier" may be closing for good.

Why does this matter so much? Labor portability is the bedrock of capitalism and social mobility. Workers must be able to move where opportunities are in order for labor to be distributed efficiently. And freedom of movement (take this job, and shove it!) is the main tool workers have to bargain effectively with employers — not to mention getting themselves a big increase in income. (Want to know where your finances stand? You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

"Given the role of mobility both for individual labor market outcomes and for the overall efficiency of the aggregate labor market, the long-run decline in migration rates could indicate a decline in overall labor market dynamism," wrote Fatih Karahan and Darius Li on the New York Fed's blog recently. "Many policymakers have worried that lower mobility is associated with a more rigid economy, where workers cannot move to locations with good jobs. Lower mobility might cause the labor market to be slow in adjusting to shocks, making downturns longer and recoveries slower."

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Alabama: Madison

  • Median property tax bill: $763
  • Median home listing price: $228,775
  • Median household income: $92,965

Madison is located in the Huntsville Metro Area, which has been experiencing economic prosperity due to its growing research, technology and manufacturing industries, according to Sperling's Best Places. In fact, Alabama as a whole is the best state for your money in 2017, according to another GOBankingRates study.

The median home value in Madison is $196,500, which is about $74,000 higher than the median home value in Alabama. According to Zillow, home values are expected to continue increasing in the Madison area.

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Arizona: Tucson

  • Median property tax bill: $1,701
  • Median home listing price: $179,000
  • Median household income: $37,149

The housing bubble hit Arizona particularly hard, but some housing markets have rebounded. Home prices in Tucson are affordable, especially compared to prices in Phoenix ($250,000) and Scottsdale ($564,000). Take note, however, that incomes in Tucson are low. But, if you can find a higher-paying job in this city, your paycheck will likely stretch further.

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Arkansas: Jonesboro

  • Median property tax bill: $698
  • Median home listing price: $172,500
  • Median household income: $40,583

Jonesboro has a low median home listing price on top of relatively low property taxes. Memphis, Tenn., is actually located close to Jonesboro and boasts cheaper homes. However, homebuyers — especially families looking to settle in and start a new life — might be turned off by Memphis’ high crime rates.

Photo credit: Jonesboro.org 

California: Los Gatos

  • Median property tax bill: $5,275
  • Median home listing price: $1,899,000
  • Median household Income: $122,860

Los Gatos might be one of the most expensive places to buy a home, but a high cost of living comes with benefits. For example, Los Gatos schools spend more per student than the national average, according to Sperling's. And, nearly 70 percent of the population has graduated from a four-year college. Another great aspect of Los Gatos is the city’s very low crime rates — both violent and property crime rates are below the U.S. average.

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Colorado: Colorado Springs

  • Median property tax bill: $1,124
  • Median home listing price: $269,900
  • Median household income: $54,228

Colorado Springs emerged as the 40th most populous city in the U.S. in May 2016, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The city’s housing prices compare favorably to Denver: The median home price in Colorado Springs is about $175,000 less than in Denver. And with home values growing, the housing market in Colorado Springs seems like it will continue its healthy streak.

See: 6 States With the Biggest Real Estate Bubbles 

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Connecticut: Westport

  • Median property tax bill: $6,898
  • Median home listing price: $1,539,000
  • Median household income: $151,771

Residents in this coastal town boast a median household income of more than $150,000, but also a median home listing price in excess of $1.5 million. But if you can afford to buy a home here, consider it.

Like many other wealthy cities, Westport has low crime rates compared to the rest of the country. And, Westport's education system is top-notch, featuring nationally ranked schools — including Staples High School, which made U.S. News' list of the best high schools in America.

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Delaware: Lewes

  • Median property tax bill: $741
  • Median home listing price: $369,990
  • Median household income: $53,505

When researching Lewes, you'll find encouraging stats when it comes to education. Schools in Lewes spend more on their students than the national average, according to Sperling's. The city is also home to one of the best school districts in Delaware: Cape Henlopen.

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Florida: Fort Walton Beach

  • Median property tax bill: $1,374
  • Median home listing price: $179,900
  • Median household income: $49,552

Situated in Okaloosa County, Fort Walton Beach has an affordable housing market. Also, economic conditions make Fort Walton Beach even more appealing — Sperling's predicts job growth will grow nearly 40 percent over the next 10 years.

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Georgia: Buford

  • Median property tax bill: $2,199
  • Median home listing price: $299,900
  • Median household income: $43,750

Located just outside the Atlanta area, Buford is still close to Georgia’s capital and economic hub. Buford's median listing price for homes is actually a bit higher than Atlanta's. However, Buford home values are slightly higher, according to Zillow.

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Idaho: Boise

  • Median property tax bill: $1,468
  • Median home listing price: $244,900
  • Median household income: $49,209

According to Zillow, Boise's housing market is currently a buyers’ market. With home values up nearly 11 percent in the past year and predicted to rise even more, buying a home in Boise sooner rather than later could be a solid investment.

Learn: How to Invest in Real Estate 

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Illinois: Vernon Hills

  • Median property tax bill: $6,862
  • Median home listing price: $345,000
  • Median household income: $89,667

Vernon Hills provides a great setting for buying a home and starting a new chapter in your life — but watch out for the taxes. The median property tax bill for Lake County, where Vernon Hills is located, is nearly $7,000.

But, it offers other benefits for homeowners and residents. The affluent village offers great cultural and economic diversity, notably the commercial and manufacturing sectors, according to Sperling's.

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Indiana: Munster

  • Median property tax bill: $1,656
  • Median home listing price: $224,900
  • Median household income: $72,532

Munster's housing market has experienced a rise in home values in the past year, and Zillow forecasts that home values will rise 2.2 percent within the next year.

Photo credit: Munster.org 

Iowa: Ames

  • Median property tax bill: $2,397
  • Median home listing price: $274,500
  • Median household income: $42,373

The median home listing price in Ames isn’t cheap nor is it expensive. However, there are other real estate trends in the city that could benefit a homebuyer. For example, the price per square foot of real estate in Ames has declined 25 percent since last year, according to Trulia.

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Kansas: Olathe

  • Median property tax bill: $2,787
  • Median home listing price: $278,500
  • Median household income: $76,519

Olathe's unemployment rate beats the U.S. average, according to Sperling's, and future job growth looks promising for people who want to buy a home and settle down. Another bonus for homebuyers: Kansas is one of the best states to get a mortgage loan thanks to competitive 30-year fixed rates.

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Kentucky: Murray

  • Median property tax bill: $875
  • Median home listing price: $160,000
  • Median household income: $29,993

Homebuyers can benefit from a relatively low median property tax when searching for a new place to live in Murray. And there are a couple of other factors in Murray that can benefit residents. For example, Murray has a lower cost of living than Lexington-Fayette, according to Sperling's. In fact, housing costs in Lexington-Fayette are more than 20 percent higher than in Murray.

Photo credit: Murrayky.org 

Louisiana: Zachary

  • Median property tax bill: $894
  • Median home listing price: $245,000
  • Median household income: $72,012

Like Murray, Zachary sports a median property tax under $1,000. Rising home values are also a good sign for homebuyers. According to Zillow, home values increased nearly 14 percent over the past year and are expected to jump another 5.4 percent within the next year.

Photo credit: Cityofzachary.org 

Maine: Falmouth

  • Median property tax bill: $3,309
  • Median home listing price: $512,450
  • Median household income: $99,324

Falmouth is located along Maine's coast. Although housing is expensive in Falmouth, it offers plenty of attractive features for homebuyers looking for a safe place to raise a family. Its violent and property crime rates are lower than the U.S. average.

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Maryland: Rockville

  • Median property tax bill: $4,193
  • Median home listing price: $474,950
  • Median household income: $98,530

Although home prices are higher here, home values in Rockville are also higher than in nearby Gaithersburg. And whether you currently have kids or plan to in the future, Rockville offers excellent numbers when it comes to education. Schools in Rockville expend more than $16,000 — and nearly $15,000 specifically on education expenses — per student, well above national averages, according to Sperling's.

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Massachusetts: Wellesley

  • Median property tax bill: $4,750
  • Median home listing price: $1,599,500
  • Median household income: $159,615

Yes, home prices are high in Wellesley — but so are incomes, which should help cover housing costs. Plus, you’ll find low crime rates and some of the best schools in Massachusetts.

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Michigan: Beverly Hills

  • Median property tax bill: $3,314
  • Median home listing price: $359,900
  • Median household income: $103,011

No, we're not talking about the 90210 — this is the other Beverly Hills. Residents here seem to earn a lot — the median household income is more than $100,000. Buying a home here might be a good investment since home values are expected to rise more than 2 percent within the next year, according to Zillow.

Photo credit: Villagebeverlyhills.org 

Minnesota: Minnetonka

  • Median property tax bill: $3,058
  • Median home listing price: $385,950
  • Median household income: $80,068

Zillow predicts Minnetonka home values will increase 3 percent in the next year. Minnetonka enjoys low crime rates, especially when compared to Minneapolis and St. Paul, according to Sperling's. The city also boasts greater projected job growth than Minneapolis — one more reason to consider buying a home in this city.

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Mississippi: Petal

  • Median property tax bill: $1,050
  • Median home listing price: $174,900
  • Median household income: $50,955

Buying a home in Petal is pretty affordable. Plus, crime rates are low by national standards, and the city has a cheaper cost of living than nearby Sumrall and Purvis.

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Missouri: St. Louis

  • Median property tax bill: $2,432
  • Median home listing price: $127,500
  • Median household income: $34,800

St. Louis boasts excellent home affordability. And with more than a fifth of houses and apartments vacant, according to Sperling's, there is a good chance housing prices in St. Louis will remain affordable in the near future.

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Nebraska: Omaha

  • Median property tax bill: $2,999
  • Median home listing price: $189,900
  • Median household income: $48,751

Omaha’s housing market is putting up some encouraging numbers for people looking to make some money off their house. According to Zillow, home values have been increasing in the last few years, rising more than 5 percent over the past year. The upward trend is expected to continue next year.

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Nevada: Reno

  • Median property tax bill: $1,786
  • Median home listing price: $356,302
  • Median household income: $46,489

Reno has recovered impressively from the housing crash of 2007-08. Home values rose 13 percent over the last year, according to Zillow. And the economy might get stronger. According to Sperling's, Reno's projected future job growth over the next 10 years exceeds the U.S. average at nearly 41 percent. It's one of the reasons GOBankingRates.com ranked it one of the best cities to own investment property

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New Hampshire: Bedford

  • Median property tax bill: $5,422
  • Median home listing price: $477,107
  • Median household income: $123,423

Bedford is located about 50 miles from Boston. With a high median household income, Bedford is considered an upscale town and boasts low crime rates. In fact, crime rates in Bedford are lower than in other suburbs such as Goffstown and Londonderry, according to Sperling's. And, Bedford's home values rose nearly 4 percent year-over-year, according to Zillow.

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New Jersey: West Windsor

  • Median property tax bill: $7,016
  • Median home listing price: $670,800
  • Median household income: $161,716

Households in West Windsor are prosperous, as the city’s $160,000-plus median household income is far higher than the national median. And if you're planning to start a family, you can count on your kids receiving a solid education. U.S. News ranked West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South as one of the top high schools in the country.

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New Mexico: Los Alamos

  • Median property tax bill: $1,771
  • Median home listing price: $286,500
  • Median household income: $107,031

Los Alamos has a relatively high median household income and a good education system — perfect if you're raising a family. In fact, Niche ranked Los Alamos Public Schools as the best school district in New Mexico.

Photo credit: Getty

New York: Jericho

  • Median property tax bill: $9,941
  • Median home listing price: $848,000
  • Median household income: $137,463

Nice homes in a nice area don’t usually come cheap, and Jericho is no exception. But don't let that deter you from buying a home here. Jericho Senior High School is top-notch, earning a perfect 10 out of 10 from GreatSchools. And, Jericho's low violent and property crime rates can also help boost home values.

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

North Carolina: Asheville

  • Median property tax bill: $1,365
  • Median home listing price: $329,000
  • Median household income: $44,077

Asheville has become a growing hotspot for businesses and private individuals alike. The city’s unemployment rate is lower than the country’s average. More importantly, Asheville home values experienced double-digit growth in the last year and are predicted to rise within the next year, according to Zillow.

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North Dakota: Grand Forks

  • Median property tax bill: $2,408
  • Median home listing price: $239,000
  • Median household income: $44,134

The median listing price for homes in Grand Forks is right around the U.S. median. Although Zillow's data found that home values fell slightly in the past year, values are expected to increase within the next year.

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Ohio: Cincinnati

  • Median property tax bill: $2,537
  • Median home listing price: $139,900
  • Median household income: $34,002

Cincinnati's low median listing price is favorable to buyers. And, unemployment is lower here than in other Ohio cities such as Dayton and Cleveland. According to Zillow's October market overview, Cincinnati home values are expected to rise about 3 percent within the next year.

Photo credit: Getty

Oklahoma: Stillwater

  • Median property tax bill: $1,154
  • Median home listing price: $179,720
  • Median household income: $32,255

About an hour’s drive north of Oklahoma City, Stillwater offers a diversified economy thanks — in part — to Oklahoma State University. In terms of living expenses, Stillwater’s cost of living is lower than the national average.

Photo credit: Getty

Oregon: Portland

  • Median property tax bill: $3,139
  • Median home listing price: $399,900
  • Median household income: $53,230

If you’re set on buying a house in the Pacific Northwest, Portland offers a high-quality atmosphere for laying down roots. Despite rising housing prices, the population of millennial homebuyers grew in recent years, according to the National Association of Realtors.

See: Top 20 Cities Where Home Prices Are Skyrocketing 

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Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh

  • Median property tax bill: $2,686
  • Median home listing price: $174,900
  • Median household income: $40,009

Home values in Pittsburgh have increased nearly 15 percent in the past year and are expected to rise another 6 percent in the next year, according to Zillow. And compared to Philadelphia, living in Pittsburgh is considerably cheaper — about 12 percent cheaper, according to Sperling's.

Photo credit: Getty

Rhode Island: Portsmouth

  • Median property tax bill: $4,215
  • Median home listing price: $439,000
  • Median household income: $77,483

Portsmouth is the best city to buy a home in Rhode Island thanks to its solid median household income, as well as encouraging trends in the housing market. Home values grew about 11 percent in the past year, and Zillow predicts it will rise more than 3 percent within the next year.

Photo credit: Getty

South Carolina: Fort Mill

  • Median property tax bill: $1,003
  • Median home listing price: $329,295
  • Median household income: $61,100

Fort Mill's future job growth is predicted to expand more than 40 percent over the next 10 years, according to Sperling's. Plus, home values are expected to rise more than 7 percent next year, according to Zillow.

Photo credit: Getty

South Dakota: Brandon

  • Median property tax bill: $2,178
  • Median home listing price: $249,900
  • Median household income: $69,792

Brandon is located in the greater Sioux Falls metro area and offers low crime rates, according to Sperling's. The cost of living is also lower than the national average.

Photo credit: Getty

Tennessee: Oak Ridge

  • Median property tax bill: $1,037
  • Median home listing price: $148,000
  • Median household income: $52,534

Oak Ridge is a suitable place to buy a home, especially considering its affordable median home price. Zillow also predicts home values will rise 4.5 percent in the next year. 

Photo credit: Getty

Texas: Austin

  • Median property tax bill: $4,432
  • Median home listing price: $380,000
  • Median household income: $55,216

Austin’s median home price falls toward the pricier side, but you can still live comfortably on a decent salary. Another GOBankingRates study found you only need to make $53,225 — which is lower than the median household income — a year to cover expenses in Austin. 

See the Results: How Much You Need to Live Comfortably in the 50 Biggest Cities 

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Utah: Logan

  • Median property tax bill: $1,118
  • Median home listing price: $189,950
  • Median household income: $35,770

Logan, located north of Salt Lake City, boasts fairly affordable housing. In fact, housing expenses in Logan are about 36 percent less than costs in Salt Lake City. Meanwhile, the overall cost of living in Logan is nearly 11 percent lower, according to Sperling's.

Photo credit: Getty

Vermont: Montpelier

  • Median property tax bill: $3,817
  • Median home listing price: $229,500
  • Median household income: $60,676

Montpelier’s median home listing price is slightly lower than the U.S. median. But, Montpelier’s median home value is more than $40,000 higher than the national median.

Photo credit: Getty

Virginia: Ashburn

  • Median property tax bill: $5,095
  • Median home listing price: $489,990
  • Median household income: $122,687

Ashburn is located near Washington, DC, and offers nice homes for those who commute into the capital. Seated right in Virginia’s prosperous technology corridor, Ashburn is expected to see a 37.8 percent increase in job growth over the next 10 years, according to Sperling's.

Photo credit: Getty

Washington: Redmond

  • Median property tax bill: $3,855
  • Median home listing price: $700,000
  • Median household income: $99,586

Redmond offers some alluring features for people looking to buy a home. For example, crime rates here are lower than rates in Seattle, and housing costs in Redmond are cheaper than in nearby Bellevue, according to Sperling's.

Photo credit: Getty

West Virginia: Wheeling

  • Median property tax bill: $684
  • Median home listing price: $125,500
  • Median household income: $36,085

Wheeling has seen an incredible 31 percent increase in median home sale prices since last year, according to Trulia. Despite that increase, Wheeling’s median list price is still lower than the U.S. median.

Photo credit: Getty

Wisconsin: Brookfield

  • Median property tax bill: $4,169
  • Median home listing price: $337,450
  • Median household income: $91,485

Brookfield is a suburb near Milwaukee and boasts suitable conditions for buying a home and starting a family. The city experienced a 5.1 percent year-over-year increase in median home values, and values are predicted to increase another 3.3 percent within the next year, according to Zillow.

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

Wyoming: Lander

  • Median property tax bill: $1,270
  • Median home listing price: $229,500
  • Median household income: $53,028

If you appreciate beautiful scenery, consider buying a home in Lander. The cost of living, including housing, in Lander isn't as high as the national average, according to Sperling's.

Up Next: The Best City in Every State for a Successful 2017 

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But try as they might, while everyone seems to agree migration is down dramatically, researchers can't agree on the cause. In fact, they don't even agree that it's a bad thing.

First, to be specific about the change that's occurring: The Urban Institute called attention to this slowing migration trend recently, citing Federal Reserve researcher Raven Molloy, who said the percentage of interstate movers among working-age people (25 to 59) has steadily slowed from nearly 3% in the 1980s to less than 1.5% from 2010 to 2015.

In a separate paper, Molloy wrote that drops have occurred across all age groups and many demographic categories. You'd expect younger people to move more, but even that group has shown a steady drop — those aged 20 to 24 moved at a 5.7% rate from 1981 to 1989 but only a 3.3% rate from 2002 to 2012, Molly wrote.

Renters moved more than homeowners, but both moved less frequently during that same time span — renters from 6.4% to 3.6%; owners from 1.5% to 0.9%. Those with more education moved more, but again, movement across all groups fell: College+ dropped from 4.2% to 2.1% while those with only high school educations dropped 2.2% to 1.1%.

That means some more seemingly obvious explanations — like trouble selling housing during the recession, or an aging population — don't explain what's going on.

Maybe there's a happy explanation for this. Three years ago, Greg Kaplan and Sam Schulhofer-Wohl wrote a paper for the Minneapolis Fed that dispelled another popular theory — that the growth of two-income couples makes moving harder, because it's more challenging for both partners to find new jobs in new areas.

Instead, they said that the changing nature of industry in America means that most regions now offer very similar opportunities. Gone are the days when people moved West to farm or moved to Detroit to work on cars. Using data known as the Theil Index, the pair point out that the mix of jobs offered in U.S. states is continually growing more and more similar — that "geographic job specificity" has fallen by one-third in the past 20 years.

"Fewer workers need to move to obtain the best jobs for them, because labor markets around the country have become more similar ... That decrease in geographic specificity makes it easier for workers to stay where they most enjoy living and maintain their occupation," the two wrote.

Their other explanation is even more positive. Would-be movers have a much easier time test-driving their potential new homes from afar. It's easier for people in Minnesota to connect with people in California to see what life there is really like.

"With more information, workers are less likely to make moves they ultimately regret, and the migration rate declines," they wrote. The authors note that among people who do move from state to state, there's a 15% chance that they'll move again the next year. So, perhaps we are finally learning the grass isn't always greener. "In other words, American workers haven't lost their flexibility. They just don't need to move so much anymore."

Another explanation is a variation on the discredited idea that the greying population explains why Americans are moving less. Corporations looking to fill jobs would generally prefer to hire locally. Nationwide searches are expensive, as are long-distance relocations. Because a greater number of older candidates are available nearby, many companies are skipping the more costly form of job hunting, indirectly contributing to less migration, even among younger people, Karhan and Li argued in their paper.

"In short, a young individual today is moving less than a young person did in the 1980s because of the higher presence of older workers," they wrote. (Again, it's a silver-lining theory.) "These findings suggest that the declining trend in interstate migration is a response of the labor market to an aging population and does not necessarily signal a decline in the market's dynamism or efficiency."

But a more recent research paper published by Molloy and others at The Brookings Institution threw a lot of cold water on these various theories and conceded they're unable to identify a clear reason. It does hint at two intriguing explanations that require more study, however.

One involves declining levels of trust. States where more people say strangers can't be trusted experienced even greater drops in migration, the paper said. So a decline in overall social trust could be making people less likely to take the leap of faith needed to make a big move.

But the paper's most intriguing suggestion involves understanding why workers get the pay and benefits they do. Perhaps larger corporations are screening employees more thoroughly, increasing a worker's costs for finding new jobs, again making a move less attractive.

Or, perhaps the most obvious answer of all: Moving just isn't worth it any longer.

Companies may also no longer feel much pressure to lure employees with big pay increases — and that in turn means there are no gold rushes that encourage workers to uproot their lives. This explanation fits with another trend that's stymied economists for years — Americans stubbornly slugging wage increases, despite a seemingly tight labor market.

While pointing out that much more research in this area is needed, Molloy and his co-authors ended their paper ominously: This effect is "unlikely to be benign."

More from Credit.com:
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How to Refinance Your Home Loan With Bad Credit
What is a Good Credit Score?

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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