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Below is a complimentary Demography Unplugged research note written by Hedgeye Demography analyst Neil Howe. Click here to learn more and subscribe.

Where Did Americans Move in 2020? - 6 4 2021 10 15 57 AM

During the pandemic, Americans migrated out of big cities and headed for the suburbs. The Northeast lost hundreds of thousands of residents, while the South gained even more. (The Wall Street Journal)

NH: Over the last few months, Census has provided two reports on US population/migration numbers.

The results from the 2020 decennial Census, collected through April 1, 2020, provided a long-term picture of migration over the last decade.

And the results from Census's annual population estimate for the year ending in July 2020 provided a more near-term picture.

Both pieces had similar findings: Over the last decade and over the last July to July year, the South and the West gained in population, while the Northeast and Midwest fell in population. (See “Winners and Losers in the 2020 Census” and "Demography Q&A.")

Neither report provides data for CY 2020 as a whole. The American Community Survey (ACS) will eventually give full-year numbers, but they won't be released until this coming fall. 

To get a more comprehensive look at migration in CY 2020, the WSJ did a deep analysis of USPS address changes for the entire year. (While I can’t reproduce their animated graphs in the NewsWire, I highly recommend checking out this article.)

So what did the USPS data show? Once again, migration in CY 2020 was simply an acceleration of earlier trends. 

By region, the South remained the biggest winner. The area gained +140,000 households in 2020. Every other region experienced net out-migration. The biggest loser was again the Northeast, which lost -109,572 households.

By county size, the suburbs of large cities continued to experience the most net in-migration (+42% YoY). And, as expected, large cities fared the worst.

In NYC, San Francisco, and Boston, the net out-migration of households increased by +71% YoY. 

Where Did Americans Move in 2020? - Migration 1

Of all four county types, the largest number of out-migrators came from large metro cores. These areas are defined as the biggest cities in metropolitan areas. Most of these people resettled in the suburbs.

But if you look at the growth rate by the number of out-migrants since 2018 by destination, the highest growth rate was to small towns or rural areas. This was also true of out-migrants from large metro suburbs and medium or small metros.

Where Did Americans Move in 2020? - Migration 2

Where Did Americans Move in 2020? - Migration 3

The WSJ also offered an answer to a question many have wondered about: Did more people actually move in CY 2020 than in CY 2019? The answer: permanent cross-county moves increased by +7% YoY.

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