Millions of people moved during the pandemic, driven by the opportunity to work remotely, the desire for more space, and better affordability. 2020 went down in history for a pandemic that changed the world; everything from how we conduct business to how we live our lives.

However, where do people move a year into the pandemic? Are suburbs and small cities gaining even more movers? As companies look beyond the pandemic, many are deciding whether to bring employees back to offices or allow them to work remotely and move away permanently.

Executive Summary

In this report, we provide evidence on persistent urban-rural migration flow using the United States Postal Service® change-of-address data. This study also identified the most popular areas for families, individuals, and businesses for the first half of 2021.

During the first half of the year:

  • Fewer people moved compared to a year earlier. As millions of Americans are already vaccinated, people are no longer rushing to relocate. Nevertheless, a year earlier, people "panic-moved," leaving their homes due to the pandemic.
  • People continue to move away from urban centers while small towns and rural areas attract even more movers. The share of inbound moves for urban areas was 48.5% - indicating migration losses - compared to 54.6% for rural areas – migration gains.
U.S. Map: Metro areas with the most net migration gains
  • When people don’t move to more affordable areas, they choose to move to a home near the ocean or with a nice mountain view. Barnstable Town, MA (63%) and Portland, ME (56%) were the top areas with the most migration gains, although homes are more expensive than the national median.
  • Families moved to small cities. Nearly 30% of the inbound moves in small towns and micropolitan areas were made by families, compared to 24% of the moves in metropolitan areas. Rural areas are also attracting families as the share of inbound moves rose to 22.8% from 22.0% a year earlier.
  • Individuals moved to urban centers. Seventy percent of movers in urban centers were individuals. Fewer individuals moved to a smaller city compared to a year earlier.
  • Businesses moved away from urban centers following the urban–rural migration trend. The share of inbound moves for businesses was 47% in urban centers compared to 65% in small towns and rural areas.
Bar graph: Where did businesses move?

Download the full report


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