When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, it upended just about every aspect of everyday life that we had grown accustomed to. Schools and businesses have closed, social distancing has become a rule, and many people have started working remotely. With this upheaval, some people began to rethink their living situation and decided to move.
To identify the fastest growing U.S. metropolitan areas during the pandemic, 24/7 Wall St. looked at population trend data from the U.S. Census Bureau. We ranked all metro areas in the United States on the percentage change in the number of residents from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021. The fastest growing metros increased by 1.5% to 5.1% during the pandemic.
The components of population change are net migration – the number of people moving into a given metropolitan area minus the number moving out – and natural population change, which is the number of births minus the number of deaths. (Due to margins of error in census estimates, the raw population change number is close to, but not exactly equal to, the sum of net migration and natural population change.)
People decide to move for a variety of reasons. Some are simply looking to move to a nicer house or apartment. Some start a new job. Some are expanding their families. Some move to send their children to better schools or to flee to a more hospitable climate. (See the state where the population has grown the most since the pandemic.)
From March to November 2020, at the height of the pandemic, about 5% of Americans moved permanently or temporarily, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. A good third of these people moved for financial reasons, 17% moved to be near family or a partner and 14% moved to a place with lower risk of coronavirus.
In the first year of the pandemic, it might have seemed like a lot of people had moved on, but in reality, overall movements dropped to the lowest levels since 1947, with just 8.2% of residents moving, up from 9.0% the previous year, according to Census Bureau data. The percentage of people who move has actually been on a steady decline since the 1960s, when about one-fifth of Americans changed their residence each year. (These are the years the most Americans have moved since 2000.)
The trend during the pandemic has continued longer with Americans moving to Sun Belt states, primarily from the northeast to the south and west. It was no different among the fastest growing metros, with 15 of the metro areas on the list located in Florida, six in Georgia, five in Idaho and three in Arizona, Texas, Alabama and North Carolina. .
Click here to see the metropolitan areas with the highest increase in pandemic population