As the US and world return to normal, Americans are returning to cities that saw a mass exodus during the pandemic.
The US Census Bureau has released a report on the status of the American market. According to the Bureau, Americans are returning in droves to cities as companies increasingly pull them back into the office.
“The migration and growth patterns for counties edged closer to pre-pandemic levels this year,” said Dr. Christine Hartley, assistant division chief for estimates and projections in the Census Bureau’s population division. “Some urban counties, such as Dallas and San Francisco, saw domestic outmigration at a slower pace between 2021 and 2022, compared to the prior year. Meanwhile, many counties with large universities saw their populations fully rebound this year as students returned.”
Whitman County, Washington, was one of the counties with the biggest reversal, with the South and West seeing the largest overall.
Whitman County, Washington, home to Washington State University, saw its population drop by 9.6% between 2020 and 2021 but then grow by 10.1% last year—the most of any county above 20,000 in population. Whitman County’s change is just one example of the many college counties that saw a rebound in the last year after a lull during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is similar to the pattern observed by many metropolitan counties in the South and West, where many impacts experienced during the pandemic are either reverting to near pre-pandemic levels or making a full recovery. For example, Dallas County, Texas, the eighth most populous county in the U.S. in 2022, lost over 22,000 (-0.8%) people between 2020 and 2021, but between 2021 and 2022 gained nearly 13,000 (0.5%) people—the fastest gains the county has seen since 2017.
Overall, the biggest factor driving the migration reversal was the pandemic:
Patterns of domestic migration in 2022 were notably different than 2021. During the height of the pandemic, many small counties experienced higher levels of domestic migration, while many large counties saw lower levels of domestic migration. This pattern has reversed between 2021 and 2022, where many of the small counties that experienced increases in domestic migration saw that pattern slow down. In the meantime, many large counties, particularly in the South and West, observed an uptick in domestic migration.