Legal Sources of Residential Lock-Ins: Why French Households Move Half as Often as U.S. Household

In a given year, a resident of the United States is roughly twice more likely to move to a different home than is a resident of France (or of western Europe as a whole). Cultural differences undoubtedly account for some of this gap. The central thesis of this Article, however, is that much of this disparity in residential mobility can be chalked up to differences between U.S. and French (and other European) legal policies—in particular, taxation statutes, land-use policies, landlord-tenant laws, and housing assistance programs. This Article also offers a normative framework for analyzing the desirability of household relocations. Legal policies that foster residential moves can enable individuals to better match themselves with a job, a dwelling, a set of housemates, a tenure arrangement, a neighborhood, and a municipality (à la Tiebout). A decision to move, however, may give rise to negative externalities, such as erosion of local social capital. In theory, although rarely in practice, people thus can move too often.

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