The baby boom generation always makes good headlines. This is true of a recent Wall Street Journal article which, if read quickly, suggests that older baby boomers are relocating at a feverish rate. This would be very important for seniors’ housing. relocating to seniors' housing

Such an increase in migration in the older cohorts would be extremely important and relevant for many aspects of the American economy, but especially for seniors’ housing developers and operators. The conclusion drawn by the WSJ article is just not correct, and probably just the opposite is true.

The article headline includes the phrase, “…retirees on the move.” One of the lead graphics shows the percentage change in the number of US residents reporting that they have relocated in the past 12 months. This chart seems to show that the 65+ age cohort is moving at a far higher rate than the other age groups. But alas, this chart is only showing the rate of change from 2006 to 2016, not the overall number of households which relocated.

percent change in relocation by age group

Source: @WSJ, h/t Paul Menestrier; Read full article


The WSJ article is built around American Community Survey recently released by the US Census Bureau. The American Community Survey contains a tremendous amount of useful information, but the conclusions drawn by the WSJ article about the migration of older cohorts in America is misleading. The migration of older Americans has significant implications for many parts of the economy, not the least of which is the seniors’ housing, elder care services and health care sectors.

Looking carefully at the data tables in the American community survey, it is clear that the actual numbers of individuals or households in the 65-74 and 75+ age groups who are relocating is modest.

United States
Total Moved; within same county Moved; from different county, same state Moved; from different state Moved; from abroad
Estimate Margin of Error Estimate Margin of Error Estimate Margin of Error Estimate Margin of Error Estimate Margin of Error
Population 1 year and over 319,361,956 +/-30,974 8.30% +/-0.1 3.20% +/-0.1 2.40% +/-0.1 0.70% +/-0.1
65 to 74 years 28,681,808 +/-19,519 3.20% +/-0.1 1.30% +/-0.1 1.30% +/-0.1 0.40% +/-0.1
EST No.       917,818       372,864       372,864       114,727
75 years and over 20,533,357 +/-15,356 4.30% +/-0.1 1.50% +/-0.1 1.10% +/-0.1 0.30% +/-0.1
 Est No.          882,934          308,000          225,867            61,600

And the percentage of the older cohorts who are migrating is less than was previously reported. The landmark study, Retirement Migration in America by Charles F. Longino estimated interstate migration of the 65+ cohort at approximately 9%, which is, overall, twice the rate reported by the American Community Survey.

Migration of older cohorts is an important factor in determining the feasibility of seniors’ housing developments, such as assisted living. Distorted information about the migration of older cohorts will make market analysis and assisted living feasibility studies all the more challenging.

Paradox of Language

Another interesting internal paradox in the WSJ article is the use of the word “retiree.” The article describes the population 65 and older as “retirees” while in the same article, the author shows (correctly) that the workforce participation rate among older cohorts is increasing significantly.

Workforce Participation by Age

The workforce participation rate among the 60+ age cohorts have  increased 1.5 to 2.5 percentage points while the younger age cohorts’ workforce participation rates have decreased. This insight is extraordinarily important for communities and service providers focusing on the needs and/or desires of these older cohorts. The “retirees” are working more, and (contrary to a conclusion of the WSJ article) relocating less.



Just the Facts

For over 25 years, Stackpole & Associates has specialized in securing intelligent answers to our clients’ the most important questions. To learn more how Stackpole & Associates can help you and your organization discern fact from fiction, please contact Irving Stackpole at +1-617-739-5900 extension 11, or email