According some recent data from the US Census Bureau and USPS (via this CityLab article), the number of Americans who registered (between March 2020 and February 2021) that they were making a permanent move somewhere else, only increased by about 3%. And the vast majority of people that did move tended to simply spread out and move within the same metro area — about 84%. About 7.5% moved within the same state. And about 6% moved to some other top 50 metro area in the US.
Some are of the opinion that these moves to the outskirts of cities would have happened regardless. The pandemic simply sped things up. Perhaps. But whatever the case may be, CityLab and others have argued that an “urban exodus” is likely the wrong way to describe what is happening. Despite reports that everybody seems to be moving to Texas and Florida (yes, Miami saw a spike), most people are simply spreading out in geographies where they already happened to live.
The notable exceptions are the Bay Area and New York. San Francisco and San Jose — both of which usually register as being two of the most expensive housing markets in the US — saw permanent moves increase by 23% and 17%, respectively. Compared to other metro areas in the US, these figures stand out. (I assume this data is collected after somebody goes to the post office and says that they want to change their address forever.)
But we are already seeing net outflows from San Jose and San Francisco start to taper off (see above). It’s also important to keep in mind that these cities were losing people well before the pandemic started. They are expensive places. And the fastest growing cities tend to be ones that sprawl, have a more elastic housing supply, and are consequently more affordable. That said, I suspect we’ll see this tapering off continue. The “urban exodus” isn’t going to be what it’s cracked up to be.