The “Great Migration” may not be as pronounced as once thought.
The US Census Bureau this week released data showing that migration activity has fallen to its lowest rate in more than 70 years. The findings toss some cold water on anecdotes that Americans were relocating more than ever during the pandemic.
From 2020 to 2021, nearly 27.1 million Americans, or 8.4%, reported living in a different residence than the year prior, according to the latest geographic mobility data from the Census Bureau. The migration rate, which has steadily declined since 2014-2015, is the lowest in more than 70 years, according to Census estimates of Consumer Population Survey data that go back to 1948.
The overall picture is consistent some ongoing migration research.
While there might not have been a massive overall trend of people moving across the country, net migration out of urban neighborhoods did increase during the early stages of the pandemic, said Stephan D. Whitaker, a policy economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, who has been closely studying migration patterns.
He analyzed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York/Equifax Consumer Credit Panel, which tracks a random sample of 10 million consumers’ whereabouts based on their credit profiles. The analysis showed an urban exodus that was driven primarily by a decrease in the number of people moving into urban neighborhoods.
“Flows of migrants out of high-cost, large metro areas did increase during the pandemic,” Whitaker said via email Thursday. “However, many other types of moves, both long distance and local, declined. Summing all these moves reveals that, overall, fewer people relocated during the first year of the pandemic.”
In updating his research, Wh