One consistent pandemic story was that people fled urban neighborhoods for less dense locales. This narrative held for New York City and San Francisco, among other places. But, in light of mobility data from 2020 that showed just under 8.5% of Americans changed addresses, what really happened?
Two recent stories help make sense of the patterns. Story number one:
“Millennials living in New York City do not make up the world,” joked Thomas Cooke, a demographic consultant in Connecticut. “My millennial daughter’s friends living in Williamsburg, dozens of them came home. It felt like the world had suddenly moved, but in reality, this is not surprising at all.”…
Demographic expert Andrew Beveridge used change-of-address data to show that while people moved out of New York, particularly in well-heeled neighborhoods, at the height of the pandemic, those neighborhoods recouped their numbers just months later. Regarding the nation as a whole, Beveridge said he’s not surprised migration declined.
Put together the attention New York City and millennials receive and that residents may have left for a while but not permanently, the population did not change dramatically.
Lake Forest has seen a dramatic uptick in the number of people relocating to the northern suburb during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve had over a thousand new families move to Lake Forest in the last 18 to 24 months,” said Mayor George Pandaleon.
He attributes the surge to four things: space, schools, safety and savings…
The mayor also noted the suburb’s real estate market was soft, meaning there was a large inventory that made it relatively easy for people to find a place to live.
This relatively small and wealthy suburb – around 20,000 residents, median household income of over $172,000 – grew as it had multiple factors in its favor.
Put these two stories together and other data and what do we have of the great COVID-19 migration of 2020? Here is my guess:
-The media and the public were very interested in what might happen because of COVID-19. It seems plausible that COVID-19 might prompt people to move given fears about transmission through the air.
-Certain people in certain locations could afford to move: those with resources to buy homes and those with flexible work arrangements. Those with fewer opportunities could not. The same residential segregation and uneven development present at normal times affected COVID times as well.
-Millennials seem to get a lot of news coverage as the next generation as well as one supposedly holding different values than previous generations.
All of this did not add up to significant mobility across the United States or across many groups in the United States.