Did More People Move During the Pandemic?

Riordan Frost

After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States in March 2020, there was a spike in the number of people moving—both permanently and temporarily—and a subsequent increase in popular narratives about a mass urban exodus or even a ‘Great Reshuffle.’ It was not uncommon to see media stories about flight from large, dense cities like New York and San Francisco, or about the explosive growth in vacation towns and rural areas. However, these narratives conflicted with emerging data on residential mobility, which showed that after the spike in moves in early 2020 mobility levels reverted to pre-pandemic trends and continued a long-term decline. This research brief uses several data sources to illustrate the nuances of changes in mobility over the past several years. It concludes that there was an acceleration of the pre-pandemic trend of moving to lower-cost states, as well as the trend of moving to suburban counties and smaller metropolitan areas. However, mobility rates fell overall during the pandemic due to a continued decrease in local mobility rates.

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