Across the country, key central business districts in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle remain eerily empty as employers continue to let employees work remotely. On the way to vacation Only one in ten office workers had returned to Manhattan.
But is the disruption caused by the pandemic – and working from home – actually convincing Americans to pack their bags and move?
The discovery, the knowledge, the find? Millions of Americans moved as a result of the pandemic – and millions more are planning to. 16% of US adults say they either moved out of their city / county (6%) or plan to move in the next 12 months (12%) during the pandemic. Around 2% of Americans who moved during the pandemic plan to do so again in 2021. Usually just 3.7% of Americans move across county boundaries in any given year. If this forecast is realized, it will be the biggest year of migration in decades.
The pandemic has in many ways refuted the notion that companies can only function and innovate in an office environment. Hence, it should come as no surprise that cities and urban areas – the long-standing foundations of Corporate America – are losing the most residents: while 4% of rural Americans and 7% of suburban Americans say they plan to move out of their city or to the For the next 12 months, that number will be 9% among US adults living in urban areas.
Just because someone leaves a city doesn’t mean they leave the cities altogether. For example, you could flee expensive San Jose to Denver or Austin.
Not all of these pandemic movements can be chalked up to the WFH. Look no further than Jamil Dawson, who lived in Calera, Alabama, before the pandemic. During COVID, he watched friends and community members watch their longstanding jobs disappear overnight. That was a wake-up call for Dawson, who was reminded that opportunities and jobs are fleeting. This motivated the 40-year-old to accept a promotion to executive director of a health clinic that moved his family three hours from their home in Alabama to Starkville, Mississippi, in the summer of 2020.
“We can make plans and feel comfortable in a job and say,” I can move forward in five years. “But maybe you don’t have five years. COVID made that crystal clear,” Dawson said capital.
During the pandemic, Gen Zers (9%) and Millennials (7%) moved much faster than Gen Xers (3%) and Baby Boomers (3%). For Gen Z, an age cohort somewhere between college and early career, some move home with mom and dad while school is out of the way. Other Gen Zers and young millennials save money by not renewing their big city apartment leases and breaking down with family or friends until things go back to normal.
Our data suggests Gen Z and Millennials will continue to move at high rates in 2021. Millennials should crowd out their younger peers, however: Among Millennials, 20% say they will move in the next 12 months, compared to 16% of Gen. Zers. Now, only 10% of Gen Xers and 7% of Baby Boomers say they are likely to move out of their cities or counties.
Why should millennials (born 1981-1996) uproot such a high clip in 2021? One theory: older millennials are fast approaching their thirties and forties and could use this pandemic as a motivation to settle down, be it close to family or the suburbs for space. Unlike their younger Generation Z counterparts, millennials may simply have needed more time – perhaps finding a new school or job for both spouses – before taking the big step.
* Methodology: The Fortune SurveyMonkey survey was conducted November 9-10 among a national sample of 2,098 adults in the United States. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The results were weighted by age, race, gender, education, and geography.
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