America’s population has become unusually mobile in the past several years. Partly this is due to a desire to leave America’s expensive coastal cities with home costs that are two or three times the national median. Low mortgage rates have helped this migration. Some of those who have moved believe that smaller cities provide the chance for better lifestyles, and medium-sized cities distant from the coast have seen large influxes of residents.
Another important contributor to these migrations is the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of people were sent home by their employers for safety reasons. Some will never return and will work from home indefinitely.
To determine the city Americans are leaving the most, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program. Cities were ranked based on the percentage decrease in population due to net migration alone from April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2020.
The 33 cities that Americans are abandoning the fastest are spread out across 18 states from coast to coast. There are 11 Midwestern states on this list, more than any other region. There were also 10 Southern states and six each in the West and Northeast with significant negative net migration.
Six of the cities Americans are abandoning are located in Illinois, by far the most of any state. New York and California tie for second most, with three cities the most people are leaving. A handful of cities had enough natural population growth (more births than deaths) to offset their negative net migration over the past 10 years. But most of these cities had fewer residents in 2020 than in 2010 — in many cases thousands fewer people.
Challenging economic circumstances are one main driver of outward migration. Of the 33 cities Americans are abandoning, most have relatively high unemployment rates and high poverty rates. In these metro areas, workers are struggling to find jobs, and those who do may be underemployed and searching for a better option.
The city Americans are abandoning the most is Watertown-Fort Drum, New York. Here are the details:
- Population change due to migration, 2010 to 2020: −17.0% (−19,763)
- Overall population change, 2010 to 2020: −7.0% (−8,139)
- Poverty rate: 15.5% (103rd highest)
- 2020 population estimate: 108,095 (346th highest)
Supplemental data on median household income came from the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. Seasonally adjusted data on unemployment in May 2021 came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Click here to see all the cities Americans are abandoning.
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