Pandemic-induced population shifts gain steam

Newly released information from the US Census Bureau confirms that the population shifts that began in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic are not only continuing today, but are gaining momentum.

That’s according to a recent US Census Bureau article, “New data reveals the most populous cities that have experienced some of the biggest declines”, in which the authors – Amel Toukabri and Crystal Delbe – extensively discuss the phenomenon of “great migration”. The report shows evidence that between 2020-2021, American residents fled cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington DC and moved to states like Texas, Arizona and Florida.

Below are excerpts from this article. (Editor’s Note: Some content has been edited for content and style.)

While the COVID-19 pandemic has not officially ended, the first release of population estimates for cities and towns this decade by the US Census Bureau reveals how population growth trends have shifted during the first year of the pandemic. Some of the fastest-growing cities before the pandemic grew at a much slower pace after it started, changing the rankings among the top 15 winners. While many city and town rankings remained roughly the same, there were notable differences in the magnitude of the change.

The new estimates show that some high-growth cities in 2019 grew more slowly in 2021. At the same time, others grew faster during the pandemic. In general, growth slowed in the country’s largest cities, and some states experienced population growth due to south and west migration in the first year after the pandemic hit.

As of July 1, 2021, six of the 15 fastest-growing cities/municipalities with populations of 50,000 or more were also among the fastest growing in the pre-pandemic on July 1, 2019. While the list was broadly similar, growth slowed for some. For example, Leander, Texas, which topped 2019 with a 12% increase from 2018, dropped to second with 10.1% growth from 2020 to 2021. In Idaho, the city of Meridian’s growth declined from 7.2% in 2019 to 5.2. % in 2021 and dropped from sixth to 13th place.

San Francisco was not among the 15 fastest-declining cities in 2019, but topped the list in 2021 with a population decline of 6.3% from the previous year, research shows. Six of the cities on the declining list in 2021 were in California. In Cupertino, one of the 15 fastest declining in both 2019 and 2021, the magnitude of the decline in population growth has nearly tripled. Meanwhile, major cities on the East Coast, including Boston and Washington, DC, were also on the list of cities with the fastest population decline. According to Census Bureau statistics, the population decline of 5% or more in one year was almost unprecedented.

Overall, pre-pandemic population losses from 2018 to 2019 were much lower than post-pandemic. For example, Petaluma, California, had the largest percentage population decline from July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019, down 2.1%. But that drop would not even have been in the top 15 in 2020-21 after the start of the pandemic.

A year after the pandemic, Phoenix — the city with the largest numerical increase from 2018 to 2019 — moved into second place, switching places with San Antonio. The population increase of 13,626 was about half of what it added in 2019. In addition, San Antonio and Fort Worth, Texas; and Meridian, Idaho, while still one of the 15 cities with the largest numerical increases, all showed significantly smaller increases. Collectively, the total population increase for the country’s 15 largest winning cities was just over 187,100 people before the pandemic hit, compared to about 129,000 a year.

While New York City remained the city with the largest numerical decline, the population decline in 2021 (305,465) was nearly six times the numerical decline in 2019 (53,624). Chicago, which ranked third with a decline of 45,175 in 2021, saw its population drop by just 7,447 (six times less) in 2019. All told, the cities with the greatest numerical population decline had a combined loss of nearly 609,800 per year in the pandemic compared to about 102,700 between 2018 and 2019.

However, not all migration shifts were the result of the pandemic. Population decline can also result from a variety of causes, including natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires. For example, Hurricane Laura, a devastating Category 4 hurricane in August 2020, is said to have contributed to the population loss of Lake Charles, La., the second-fastest declining city with a 5% decline from 2020 to 2021.

Behind the Great Migration

Domestic migration is defined by the US Census Bureau as the movement of populations that occurs during certain periods of time. When it comes to the 2020-2021 migration period, much of these population changes can be attributed to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in 58% of counties in the United States experiencing population growth.

anecdotal FCNews research shows that despite being two years away from the start of the pandemic, Americans are still fleeing major cities for wider suburbs.

“One of the largest local real estate companies reported to me that about 50% of their current suburban buyers are from the city,” said Lauren Voit, owner of Great Western Flooring, Naperville, Illinois, about 55 miles from Chicago. “As people move out of the city, I see that our environment is attracting many new homeowners. We see this trend as a huge opportunity for us.”

Likewise, Mike Foulk, owner of Foulk’s Flooring America in Meadville, Pennsylvania, said his centrally located store in western Pennsylvania is the perfect place to take advantage of customers from the major surrounding cities. “The trend of people moving to areas with lower cost of living will certainly help dealers who are located in small-town America,” he said. “We are 90 miles from three major cities. People are not far from the big city culture, but [they are close] enough where the lifestyle is affordable.”

In the Pacific Northwest, the story is much the same. “We’re in a good place and we’re counting our blessings,” said Don Cantor, owner of Lake Interiors in Chelan. He said migration from urban to suburban areas will continue as the pandemic normalized the work-from-home culture and that the new generation of workers is more likely to want less expensive homes in smaller cities or the luxury of having more space in smaller cities. towns. “I spoke with some of these Microsoft and Amazon employees; they can now work from home, saving them two and a half hours each way. It’s a more efficient way of life for them.”

A Zillow survey conducted by Harris found that more than half of Americans have had the opportunity to work remotely during the pandemic and 75% of them would rather continue to work remotely, even if only part-time. In addition, the survey also concluded that those remote workers would also consider moving further from their workplace to seek a more spacious home suitable for a home office.

While this shift from urban to suburban areas resulted in new business opportunities for flooring retailers, business owners also found themselves needing to upgrade their spaces to accommodate the influx of customers. “We are witnessing a continued increase in consumer desire to shop for flooring specific to the new functional needs of their homes and families,” said Mindy Arnette, residential sales manager for Brians Flooring & Design in Birmingham, Ala. “We expect the multifunctional home design will dictate [the pace of] our flooring sales.”


Unlike the ten-year census, which aims to count every person living in the United States, the annual population and housing estimates for states, counties, cities and

cities are developed using various administrative data sources, such as birth and death certificates and tax return statistics of people who have changed residence. The ten-year census serves as the starting point for each decade of estimates of the population of the subprovinces.

Cities and towns are more likely than larger geographic areas to annex land or disappear. The Census Bureau applies these kinds of legal boundary changes to the 10-year census to create an updated population and housing unit base. Such geographic updates are made annually so that each new time series of estimates the agency produces begins with a newly updated geographic base. This “base of estimates” created from the census is essential for an accurate population distribution.

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