Americans Are Moving, but Staying Close to Home

Despite fears of a mass exodus, most cities are seeing only modest population losses, with the majority of movers staying in the same metro area.

2 minute read

May 6, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Empty Road

Samer / Flickr

Rather than the "urban exodus" that many analysts feared the pandemic would precipitate, write Marie Patino, Aaron Kessler, and Sarah Holder for Bloomberg CityLab, "perhaps it’s more of an urban shuffle." 

As research about the last year begins to crystallize, "data shows most people who did move stayed close to where they came from." According to the authors, "[i]n the country’s 50 most populous cities, 84% of the moves were to somewhere within the perimeter of the central metro area, down just slightly from pre-pandemic levels."

New York City and San Francisco saw more dramatic changes. "The regions around San Francisco and San Jose, two of the country’s most expensive housing markets, saw the rates of permanent moves increase the most, by more than 23% and 17% respectively, compared to 3% nationally." New York City "saw the greatest loss in net moves into the city over the past year" as Manhattan residents relocated to outer boroughs, nearby suburbs like Long Island, and outlying areas like the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk region of Connecticut, less than 60 miles from the city. Some smaller cities are seizing on the opportunity with incentive programs designed to attract remote workers.

But the "release valve" created by the sudden boom in remote work "is not available to the majority of American workers, who can’t work remotely, particularly essential workers and low-wage workers." Knowing the remote work boom may not last, cities like Stockton, "a sizable majority-nonwhite city that’s been deemed the most diverse in America," are focusing instead on attracting companies and job opportunities for existing residents.

Monday, April 26, 2021 in Bloomberg CityLab

Aerial view of homes on green hillsides in Daly City, California.

Depopulation Patterns Get Weird

A recent ranking of “declining” cities heavily features some of the most expensive cities in the country — including New York City and a half-dozen in the San Francisco Bay Area.

April 10, 2024 - California Planning & Development Report

Close-up of maroon California 'Clean Air Vehicle' carpool lane access sticker on the back bumper of a silver Tesla vehicle.

California EV Owners To Lose Carpool Lane Privilege

A program that began in 1999 to encourage more electric car ownership is set to expire next year without Congressional and state action.

April 2, 2024 - San Francisco Chronicle

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Google street view of grassy lot next to brick church with elevated freeway on other side in Houston, Texas.

Houston Supportive Housing Development Sparks Debate

Critics say a proposed apartment building would negatively impact the neighborhood’s walkability.

April 12 - Houston Chronicle

Closed black wrought iron gate in front of gated residential community with large palm trees along sides of street.

Friday Funny: Gated Community Doubles Down

The Onion skewers suburbia.

April 12 - The Onion

Aerial view of Chicago with river in foreground.

‘Cut the Tape’ Report Takes Aim at Inefficiencies

A set of recommendations from the Chicago mayor’s office calls for streamlining city processes to stimulate more residential and commercial development.

April 12 - Block Club Chicago

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.