In the first full year of the pandemic, the largest cities lost residents


After returning to the San Francisco metro area from a college football career, Anthony Giusti felt like his hometown was beyond him. The high cost of living, driven by an ever-changing tech industry, meant that even with two jobs, he would never save enough money to buy a house.

So he started looking elsewhere, settling in Houston last year.

“In Houston, I can be a blue-collar entrepreneur. With Houston’s housing market, it made sense to come here,” said Giusti, who started a house painting business.

Giusti was one of tens of thousands of residents who moved away from some of the country’s largest, most densely populated and costliest metropolitan areas in favor of Sunbelt destinations in the first full year of the pandemic. , from mid-2020 to mid-2021, according to new data released Thursday by the US Census Bureau.

The pandemic has intensified demographic trends of migration to the South and West, as well as a slowdown in growth in the largest cities of the United States

The exodus from America’s largest metropolitan areas was led by New York, which lost nearly 328,000 people. It was driven by people moving elsewhere, even as the metropolitan area gained new foreign residents and births exceeded deaths.

Metro Los Angeles lost nearly 176,000 people, the San Francisco area saw a loss of more than 116,000 people, and greater Chicago lost more than 91,000 people from 2020 to 2021. San Jose areas, Boston, Miami and Washington also lost tens of thousands of residents. , mostly people walking away.

On the other hand, the Dallas area grew by over 97,000, Phoenix’s population jumped by over 78,000, and greater Houston added 69,000, including Giusti. In the Phoenix metro area, growth was driven by moves from elsewhere in the United States, while in Dallas and Houston it was propelled by a combination of migration and births exceeding deaths.

“Texas has something about it, a romantic thing, with cowboys, and there’s the idea here of the Lone Star State,” Giusti said in describing Texas’ appeal.

The US Census Bureau’s Vintage 2021 estimates also showed that “micro” areas – defined as having a city center of less than 50,000 people – were growing in population from mid-2020 to mid-2021, after years of slow population growth or decline. The small population gains were driven by people moving there, as deaths continued to exceed births in many of these communities. Growth in micro-zones was led by Kalispell, Mont. ; Jefferson, Georgia; and Bozeman, Mt.

Demographer William Frey said he believed the growth of micro-zones and decreases in larger metros would be temporary, occurring at the height of people’s shifts during the pandemic when work-from-home arrangements freed up people. workers from the obligation to go to their offices.

“There’s clearly a scatter, but I think it’s a blip,” said Frey, a senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. “We’ve been at one of the lowest levels of immigration for a very, very long time, and it’s affecting major metropolises like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. It will come back. With natural decay, we will return to normal.

Between mid-2020 and mid-2021, there was a sharp increase in deaths exceeding births across the country. Nearly 75% of US counties have experienced a so-called natural decline, meaning that deaths exceed births; this proportion was up from 55.5% in 2020 and 45.5% in 2019. The trend was fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as declining births and an aging population.

“You have more older Americans, and the birth rates are low, so you don’t have many unborn children, and then comes COVID, and it hits older adults the most, often in areas rural areas without access to good health care,” said Kenneth. Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire. “It’s like a perfect storm, if you will, that produced this natural decrease.”

Pittsburgh and Tampa, Fla., had the largest natural declines of U.S. metropolitan areas, on the order of 10,000 residents each. Pittsburgh’s population shrunk by nearly 14,000 because people left the city, in addition to those who died.

But the Tampa area has grown overall due to an influx of more than 45,000 new residents, like Jennifer Waldholtz, who moved from Atlanta with her husband in 2020. They had previously lived in Orlando and missed palm trials and blue Florida skies.

“We wanted to come back to Florida. It was state-specific,” said Waldholtz, who works in nonprofit development. “We loved the Florida way of life. It’s an atmosphere, the way of life, the sun, the palm trees, but certainly not politically.

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