Nearly 176,000 residents moved out of Los Angeles during the first full year of the pandemic, from mid-2020 to mid-2021, according to new data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau, ABC7 reports.
L.A. was among several large cities, including New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, to see significant drops in population amid the pandemic as many Americans fled for smaller areas with more affordable housing. L.A. had the second largest decline in residents nationwide.
Though births outnumbered deaths, and there was an uptick in new residents from abroad, it still wasn’t enough to overcome the loss of tens of thousands of people who moved away.
New York City saw the greatest exodus, with nearly 328,000 people becoming former New Yorkers.
The San Francisco area ranked third, losing more than 116,000 residents, followed by the greater Chicago are, which saw a loss of more than 91,000 people from 2020 to 2021, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Boston, Miami, San Jose, and Washington areas also experienced the rapid outflow tens of thousands of locals.
By contrast, Dallas welcomed more than 97,000 newcomers, while Phoenix’s population grew by over 78,000, and greater Houston added 69,000 residents, the Times reports. In Phoenix, the spurt was driven by moves from elsewhere in the U.S.; in Dallas and Houston the surge was sparked by a combination of migration and births outpacing deaths.
William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s metropolitan policy program, said he thinks the growth of micro areas and decreases in the largest metros will be temporary, having taken place at the height the pandemic migration surge, when people were able to work from home as opposed to being tied to their offices.
“There is clearly a dispersion, but I think it’s a blip,” Frey told the Times. “We’re at one of the lowest levels of immigration in a long, long time, and that affects big metros like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. That is going to come back. With the natural decrease, we will go back to normal.”
Between mid-2020 and mid-2021, nearly 75 percent of U.S. counties experienced a natural decrease—deaths outpacing births—which was a marked increased from 55.5 percent in 2020 and 45.5 percent in 2019, the Times reports. This trend was driven by the pandemic, as well as fewer births and an aging population.
“You have more older Americans, and birth rates are low so you don’t have many children being born, and then along comes COVID, and it hits older adults the most, often in rural areas without access to good healthcare,” Kenneth Johnson, a senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire, told the Times. “It’s like a perfect storm, if you will, that produced this natural decrease.”
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