Contrary to popular belief, no great migration in the event of a pandemic

Students finish loading their belongings into a U-Haul truck as they leave their dormitory in Washington on March 18, 2020. The proportion of people who have moved in the past year has fallen to its lowest rate in during the 73-year follow-up, in a rebuttal of popular anecdotes that there was great migration to the United States during the pandemic, according to figures released by the US Census Bureau on Wednesday. (Patrick Semansky, Associated Press)

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WASHINGTON – Contrary to popular belief, there was no major migration to the United States during the pandemic.

New figures released Wednesday by the US Census Bureau show that the proportion of people who have moved in the past year has fallen to its lowest level in the 73-year follow-up, at odds with popular anecdotes that people have left cities in droves to escape COVID. -19 restrictions or looking for more bucolic lifestyles.

“Millennials living in New York City don’t make up the world,” joked Thomas Cooke, a demographics consultant in Connecticut. “My millennial daughter’s friends living in Williamsburg, dozens of them came home. It was as if the world had suddenly moved, but in reality it wasn’t at all surprising.”

In 2021, more than 27 million people, or 8.4% of U.S. residents, reported moving in the past year, according to the Current Population Survey’s annual social and economic supplement.

By comparison, 9.3% of US residents moved from 2019 to 2020. Three decades ago, that figure was 17%.

In addition to resulting in restrictions on in-place shelter, the COVID-19 pandemic may have forced people to postpone life cycle events such as marriages or births that often lead to relocations. But the decline is part of a decades-long migratory decline in the United States, said William Frey, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution.

“These numbers show that a lot of people either didn’t move or moved slower,” Frey said. “But that’s a longer term trend.”

It doesn’t mean that no one has budged. The only increase in mobility patterns last year was in long-distance travel, state to state, compared to travel within a state or county. Those 4.3 million people who moved to another state may have done so because of the pandemic, Frey said.

Demographics expert Andrew Beveridge used change of address data to show that as people moved out of New York City, especially in affluent neighborhoods, at the height of the pandemic, those neighborhoods recovered their numbers a few months longer. late. Regarding the nation as a whole, Beveridge said he was not surprised that migration had declined.

“The same happened during the financial crisis. No one moved. No one got married. No one had children,” said Beveridge, professor of sociology at Queens College and the Graduate. School and University Center at the City University of New York. “All demographic changes sort of stop.”

Other factors have helped keep Americans there: an aging population, as older people are less likely to move than younger people; the possibility of teleworking to work, which has allowed some workers to change jobs without having to travel; and rising house prices and rents that has kept some potential movers off, demographers said.

“I think the rise of remote working due to COVID coupled with the economic shock is the main reason,” said Mary Craigle, bureau chief for Montana Research and Information Services.

Mobility in the United States has been declining since 1985, when 20% of American residents moved. It was a time when baby boomers were young adults, starting careers, getting married and starting families. By comparison, millennials, who are now in the same age bracket as their baby boomer cohorts in the mid-1980s, are stranded due to high housing costs and underemployment, according to an analysis that Frey did last year.

Advances in telecommunications and transportation have contributed to the decline of mobility in the United States for decades. Nowadays, people can study, work, and visit family and friends remotely. In the second half of the last century, the road network allowed people to work 50 miles from their homes without having to come close to work, said Cooke, professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut.

Growing economic insecurity over the decades has also made US residents less mobile because “when there is insecurity, people value what they already have,” he said.

The slowdown in American mobility is part of a recent stagnation in population dynamics in the United States.The 2020 census shows that the United States grew by only 7.4% in the previous decade, the rate the slowest since between 1930 and 1940. revealed that the population center of the United States moved only 11.8 miles, the smallest displacement in 100 years.

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