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.

May 6, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

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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

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