Busting the 'Urban Exodus' Myth, Again

New numbers from the Census Bureau show that fewer Americans moved in 2020 than ever before, belying dire predictions about the death of cities and the hollowing out of urban neighborhoods.

1 minute read

December 23, 2021, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Moving Truck

Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock

Despite the hype over a perceived 'urban exodus' due to COVID-19, Americans actually moved less in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center and data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. Richard Fry and D'Vera Cohn report that with only 8 percent of Americans making a move between March 2020 and March 2021, this is the lowest rate since the government started keeping records in 1948.

According to the article, "More people moved out of U.S. cities than moved into them," and "more people moved out of rural areas than moved into them in 2020." The only cities that experienced increased out-migration from previous years were New York and San Francisco. And while "suburbs had more people moving in from other U.S. communities than out," fewer Americans moved into suburban areas in 2020 than in prior years. The survey also indicates that people between 18 and 29 were most likely to move and that many pandemic moves were temporary.

The authors note that these numbers only reflect domestic migration and do not account for people moving in from abroad, or births and deaths. But the data runs counter to the popular narrative that Americans fled cities for lower-density communities in larger numbers during the pandemic.

Thursday, December 16, 2021 in Pew Research Center

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