Americans are leaving big metro areas like New York City in exchange for smaller cities Like El Paso to settle down according to a new study.
The State of U.S. Population Movement Report, which analyzes how the population of the U.S. has changed between Q1 2020 and Q1 2023 was recently released. Focusing on the top 10 counties that gained and lost the most in terms of population and explaining the trends seen across the 10 most populous states, the report found that consumers overwhelmingly moved to smaller markets with a lower average cost of housing.
Location intelligence insights from Gravy’s report revealed consumers are making the most of their income by moving to counties that boast a median house value of $279K, about 38% lower than the median house value of those counties that are losing population. While consumers chose counties with a lower home value, median household income was only 9% lower in these smaller counties compared to the bigger cities, suggesting that those people were able to take home a similar income in a smaller city where funds can be stretched further.
Cities with a lower cost of living outside of metro areas are growing in interest, especially among remote and hybrid workers who continue to trade city living for more space and a lower-cost lifestyle. As work-from-home and hybrid working arrangements have outlived pandemic protocols, consumers have been able to leave large cities for more affordable surrounding suburban areas and smaller cities that provide comparable conveniences at a lower cost.
Goodbye Big Cities
Gravy’s report revealed that residents in New York City overwhelmingly moved away from the metropolitan area in favor of places in western and central New York. At the other end of the state where the median house value is just under $180K (less than one-fifth of what it is in Manhattan), Erie County saw its population increase more than any other county. California also saw residents leave trendy Los Angeles County for Riverside County, where the median house value is almost 48% lower.
This trend was seen throughout all 10 most populous U.S. states as consumers moved out of big cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, and Charlotte, N.C., in favor of smaller counties/cities in surrounding areas.
“There have been significant changes in the population distribution of the U.S. over the last three years beginning with the pandemic, and now due to increased cost of living and evolving work trends,” said Jeff White, founder and CEO of Gravy Analytics. “Consumers are empowered now more than ever to adjust their living situation to match their desired lifestyle, making it a crucial time for organizations to capitalize on the new opportunities these markets present. With the insight provided by location intelligence, cities, retailers, and business owners can anticipate the needs of these consumers and plan their strategies accordingly.”
Additional key trends the report revealed:
- What once was considered a vacation destination is now what consumers are calling home. Previously identified vacation spots such as Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, the many beaches of Brevard County, Florida, and Muskegon, Michigan, are seeing permanent residents that value the opportunities to explore and relax in a vacation destination year-round.
- Consumers still enjoy the feel of a city but on a smaller scale. While the larger metro areas are seeing population losses at a more significant rate, that doesn’t mean consumers are ready to give up city living altogether but rather are seeking the same atmosphere on a smaller (and more cost-effective) scale. With plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment experiences, smaller cities like Greensboro, N.C., Augusta, Ga., Scranton, Pa., and El Paso, Texas, are seeing population growth.
- As a result of this shift in population, local economies can expect to see a much-needed boost in business. As local businesses continue to bounce back from losses brought on by the pandemic, the resurgence of people to these smaller communities could be just the thing to reinvigorate local economies. Consumers working remotely are taking their substantial salaries from previous big city jobs, increasing median household incomes and bringing more spending to these areas.
To download the full report, visit here.
To find the complete data for all 50 U.S. states, visit here.
To determine population distribution, the report utilizes mobile device signals observed in every county across the nation. A device is recorded in a state or county when the vast majority of its associated signals are present in that state or county. The number of unique devices observed in a state or county is then divided by the total number of unique devices to determine the proportion of total devices in that state or county.
Changes in population distribution are then determined by calculating the difference between the proportion of unique devices observed in a region. The report reflects unique devices observed over 3 years, beginning Jan. 1, 2020, and ending Mar. 31, 2023.
Source: Gravy Analytics