America’s big cities are normally a balanced churn of people arriving and people departing, but 2020 tipped the balance. Residents rushed to escape the city, with Americans eager to build islands for their families away from the riots, looting, and COVID lockdowns imposed on them by governors gone wild. Other Americans who would normally have moved into the city were too afraid or just didn’t want to deal with COVID restrictions, and mass unrest.
In big blue cities, where the wealthy are treated like a piggy bank for politicians focused on their own legacies, departures soared. With remote work available, what wealthy city dweller would stay to be taxed, looted, and infected? The Wall Street Journal reports:
What started to change in the past year is who lives in cities. Stephan Whitaker, a policy economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, used credit-record data to analyze urban mobility patterns. He found that in earlier years, the net migration out of urban neighborhoods involved more people from neighborhoods with below-median income than from neighborhoods with above-median income. That reversed in 2020, with wealthier neighborhoods seeing the biggest losses from migration.
Net population losses in and around large cities were driven, even more than departures, by a decline in the number of people moving in, data from the postal service and Mr. Whitaker’s research show. The outflow was greater among metro areas with more Covid-19 deaths and those with more jobs that allowed for remote work, according to Mr. Whitaker’s analysis.
The postal service data showed a sharp reversal in migration, which had hit a record low before the pandemic, census figures show. Americans logged 7% more permanent moves between counties in 2020 than in 2019, after a drop of 2% from 2018 to 2019. Year-over-year increases topped 10% in each of the last four months of 2020, peaking at 28% in December.
The patterns in 2020 generally followed those in 2019, but were amplified, as losing states gave up more and gaining states received more.
The exodus from New York City has been a boon for New Jersey. The state more than doubled its new households from migration in 2020 from the prior year. In 12 suburban New Jersey counties, net growth from relocating New York City residents rose to more than 35,000 households in 2020, up 76% from the prior year.
That, along with low interest rates, set the housing market in Bergen County, N.J., on fire. Located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, the county drew three times as many net new households from migration in 2020 compared with the prior year as families seeking more space and short commutes poured in.
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