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A Closer and Unique Perspective on the Reasons Behind the Exodus from Cities

Almost since the pandemic began a year ago, reports have surfaced about the flight of many city residents to the suburbs in reaction to rising infection rates and imposed lockdowns.


As the virus lingered, economists, sociologists and other analysts have noted the exodus of urban residents and businesses to safer suburban locations. Many have also theorized that many of these transplants will never return to their former city residences or offices.


Thanks to the recommendation of Vision Hudson Valley (formerly the Orange County Citizen’s Foundation) President Nancy Proyect, we offer you a perspective from Alan Ehrenhalt, senior editor of, who details the reasons why this urban to suburban migration may be temporary and that cities, such as New York, could rebound once the crisis of the pandemic has ended.


Ehrenhalt’s article not only provides data on outflows from key urban centers, but where many of these migrants are relocating to. In addition, he notes that the problem may not be as severe as some experts would have you believe.


“We actually have quite a bit of data on where people have been moving and why. There has been an outflow from many urban neighborhoods, but it hasn't been very large,” he wrote. “Last June, a careful study by the Pew Research Center found that 3% of Americans reported moving permanently or temporarily for reasons related to the coronavirus. In November, the number was up to 5%. That's not a trivial number of people, but it's far short of a national exodus.”


He also notes that some of the reasons urban residents are moving out of central cities existed prior to the pandemic.


“Most cities that lost population in 2020 didn't lose it because of people leaving. They shed population because newcomers weren't coming. In New York City, according to a McKinsey study, the ratio of arriving workers to departing ones was down 27%. This, too, is only common sense. Why would you move into New York when jobs were disappearing there? Similar numbers apply to Los Angeles, Boston and Seattle,” Ehrenhalt noted.


In terms of New York City, he cited housing costs as another contributing factor to the Big Apple’s current woes. “For decades, one of the most attractive things about New York City was its affordability for young people from all over America who dreamed of plunking themselves down in Gotham, making it in journalism or publishing or show business and having a good time in the process. Over the past 10 years, that dream has largely died. New York has just been too expensive. In a post-pandemic America, it may become affordable again for the ambitious and star-struck,” he wrote.


For the full “Where Americans Are Moving — and Why They Really Are Doing It?” go to: