Despite common misconception, there has been no mass migration in the United States as a result of the outbreak.
According to new data released Wednesday by the United States Census Bureau, the proportion of people who moved in the previous year fell to its lowest level in the 73 years that it has been tracked, defying the popular belief that people were fleeing cities in droves to avoid COVID-19 restrictions or seek more rural lifestyles.
Thomas Cooke, a demographic consultant in Connecticut, said, “Millennials residing in New York City do not make up the globe.” “Dozens of my millennial daughter’s Williamsburg pals returned home.” It felt as if the entire world had shifted, although this isn’t shocking at all.”
According to the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, more than 27 million people, or 8.4 percent of U.S. citizens, reported moving in the previous year in 2021.
In comparison, 9.3% of Americans relocated from 2019 to 2020. That percentage was 17 percent three decades ago.
Aside from causing shelter-in-place constraints, the COVID-19 pandemic may have driven people to postpone life-cycle activities like marriages and childbirth, which commonly result in relocation. However, according to William Frey, a senior scholar at The Brookings Institution, the fall is part of a decades-long migratory decline in the United States.
“These figures reveal that a lot of people didn’t migrate or moved at a slower pace,” said Frey. “However, this is a longer-term trend.”
That isn’t to claim that nothing happened. Longer-distance moves from state to state, as opposed to moves within a state or county, saw the only increase in mobility patterns last year. According to Frey, the 4.3 million residents who relocated to another state may have done so as a result of the pandemic.
While individuals moved out of New York during the epidemic, especially in well-heeled districts, demographic researcher Andrew Beveridge utilized change-of-address data to show that those communities recouped their numbers mere months later. Beveridge said he’s not surprised that migration has decreased across the country.
“During the financial crisis, the same thing happened. Nobody made a sound. Nobody tied the knot. Nobody had children,” said Beveridge, a sociology professor at Queens College and the City University of New York’s Graduate School and University Center. “Everything comes to a screeching halt in terms of demographic shift.”
An aging population, which is less likely to move than younger people; the ability to telecommute for work, which allowed some workers to change jobs without having to move; and rising home prices and rents, which kept some would-be movers in place, according to demographers, have all contributed to Americans staying put.
“I believe the increase in remote work as a result of COVID, along with the economic downturn, is a key reason,” Mary Craigle, bureau chief for Montana’s Research and Information Services, said.
Since 1985, when 20% of Americans migrated, mobility in the United States has been on the decline. Baby Boomers were young adults at the time, starting professions, getting married, and starting children. According to a research Frey conducted last year, millennials, who are now in the same age range as their Baby Boomer classmates were in the mid-1980s, are trapped in place due to high housing expenses and underemployment.
Advances in telecommunications and transportation have led to the long-term fall in mobility in the United States. People can now acquire an education, work, and visit family and friends from a distance. According to Cooke, an emeritus professor at the University of Connecticut, the highway system permitted individuals to work 50 miles (80 kilometers) from their houses without having to relocate for jobs in the final part of the twentieth century.
Rising economic instability has made Americans less mobile throughout the years, he says, since “when there’s insecurity, people appreciate what they already have.”
The slowing in American mobility is a result of the country’s recent population stagnation. According to the 2020 census, the United States increased at a pace of 7.4 percent over the previous decade, the slowest rate since the 1930s and 1940s. The Census Bureau announced earlier this week that the population center of the United States had moved by 11.8 miles (19 kilometers), the smallest displacement in 100 years.