People traveling far and wide to spend time with family members during the holiday season have become the image of an American Christmas. However, results from a survey of older Americans debunks this stereotype, revealing that long-distance holiday travel is actually just an 18-mile drive for the average American.

The data, published in the Growing Older in America: The Health and Retirement Study, shows that contrary to the widely held but fixed belief that Americans are “rootless, constantly on the move to seek opportunity, even if it means leaving family behind,” the typical adult lives just under a half-hour away from their family home, The New York Times reported. Only 20 percent of Americans have to drive more than a couple of hours to see their parents.

This phenomenon of people becoming less mobile over the last few decades — especially among those from low-income families — can be linked to lack of opportunity and the rising prevalence of families depending on one another for financial and caregiving support.

"It speaks to a class divide in the population. Particularly as you go further down the socioeconomic scale, people are living pretty close to their parents, and this means they're able to provide help," economist Robert A. Pollak told The Upshot.

According to the AARP, the greatest source of care for the elderly in the United States is grown children. This pattern is likely to persist as baby boomers grow older, and their grown-up children look to them for help with child care. This is less likely to occur in wealthier people who “can afford to pay for services like child and elder care,” The Times reported.

Most people live close to home because they feel tethered to their family, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Most People who flew far away from the nest cited job opportunities as their reason for leaving. This study also found that, outside of college or military services, 37 percent of Americans had never ventured outside their hometown and 57 percent had never lived outside their state.

Education and income are the biggest factors that determine how far adults venture from their hometowns. According to Pollak and economist Janice Compton, married couples are more likely to live farther from their parents than people who are not married. Black people also tend to live in closer proximity to their parents than whites, while Latinos are more likely to live near or with their parents, The Times reported.

Source: Weir D, Langa K, Ofstedal M, et al. Growing Older in America: The Health and Retirement Study. 2015