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Nation & World

'New York Times' Report Finds Most Americans Live Close To Mom

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

With this being one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, we were surprised to read a report in this week’s New York Times that the typical American adult lives 18 miles from their mother. That’s practically over the river and through the woods. And it would seem to turn the idea of rootless Americans living far from their families on its head. So we have called up Quoctrung Bui to find out more about the data they've uncovered. Welcome to the program.

QUOCTRONG BUI: Hi. How are you doing?

SIEGEL: Eighteen miles - that’s so un-Norman Rockwellish. Were you surprised by how many American adults live that close to their parents?

BUI: Yeah, I was really surprised. Before I went and did this research, I had this hypothesis that people actually live quite far away because my mother-in-law, she lives in Florida and my mom lives in California. And all of my friends, they talked about getting on an airplane and flying very long distances to see their families. So I just wanted to know, like, how far are people living away from their families. And it turns out they're actually pretty close.

SIEGEL: Yeah. For different parts of the country, you found different median distances that adults live from their mother.

BUI: Right. And this was pretty surprising. One of the most surprising things that I found was that in the South, the median distance between siblings and parents is only six miles. And that's the shortest distance for all the regions in the country. The furthest was out west, the states that include Nevada, Colorado, Idaho - that distance is 44 miles. That might have to do with geography, you know, if you live in a different town out west, then you’re very likely to live very far away. The cities aren't very close together.

SIEGEL: And where you live, in New York?

BUI: In New York, it's only eight miles.

SIEGEL: Although eight miles from Brooklyn to the Bronx on a holiday weekend might take as long as going 40 miles in Nevada or Wyoming.

BUI: Yeah. I live in Brooklyn and, you know, if you want to go to Queens, it’s going to take you an hour or two.

SIEGEL: Those who are more likely to move far away from mother would be those with higher incomes and I guess skills that would get one of those higher-income jobs.

BUI: Right. So if you think about your family and what they can possibly do for you, like, that is in itself a form of income. You know, you rely on your mom to take care of your children or your mom relies on you to help her with her daily activities. Those are things that actually have some sort of value. And so in a way, if you feel compelled to move away from your family, then this idea is you have to be compensated in maybe extra money or more prestige or better job opportunities to kind of offset that cost.

SIEGEL: Maybe we should think in terms of a very different meme for holiday travel. Instead of getting in the car to travel hours to go to see your mother, maybe you’re getting in the car to travel hours to get away from seeing your mother.

BUI: (Laughter) That might be the case. I mean, this year I’m, unfortunately, not going to go see my mother for Christmas. I’m going to stay here, so there might be something to that.

SIEGEL: (Laughter). OK. Well, thanks for enlightening us about how close by mom is for so many American adults.

BUI: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: That’s Quoctrung Bui of The New York Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.