In 2020, fewer Americans moved as a mass exodus from cities across the country slowed down.

According to the Pew Research Center, Americans relocated less during the coronavirus pandemic, moving from one residence to another in 2020 at the lowest rate since the government began reporting data more than 70 years ago.

Although a declining number of Americans say they want to live in cities, fewer people moved out of them last year than prior to the pandemic.

Only 8% of Americans – roughly 26.5 million people – moved from one U.S. home to another between March 2020 and March 2021, according to data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

The 2020 rate and number were the lowest since the federal government began reporting data in 1948.

Fewer people moving to California, worse in Bay Area

In California — particularly the Bay Area, continues to see a slowing population growth, according to a recent analysis by the California Policy Lab.

The lab announced last week that there has been an even lower rate of people moving into the state by the end of Sept. 2021 compared to March 2020 — down by 38%.

The rate of people moving out of the state is now 12% higher than pre-COVID levels, the data shows.

Since the pandemic began, the Bay Area’s population growth has been slow.

Data shows that the rate of people moving from out-of-state into San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties declined by 48-53%.

At the same time, more people were moving out of these counties and leaving California entirely.

San Francisco County is the only one that saw more than a 30% increase in the county’s exit rate, resulting in an increase of people moving out of San Francisco.

Domestic migration decline impact

According to a Pew Research Center analysis that compared data for movers in 2020 with data for movers in 2016-2018 — the decline in U.S. domestic migration had an impact on all types of communities, including cities, suburbs and rural areas,

According to the center, 2020 continued the same pre-pandemic pattern of net migration gain or loss for cities and suburban areas. 

As a result, more people moved out of U.S. cities than moved into them, while suburbs had more people moving in from other U.S. communities than out.

Additionally, the net flow for rural areas did not indicate strong movement in either direction in 2016-2018, while more people did move out of rural areas than moved into them in 2020.

Overall, 4.9 million Americans left cities for suburbs or rural areas — compared to an annual average of 5.4 million who moved before the pandemic.

An additional 2.9 million moved into cities from suburbs or rural areas in 2020 — compared to an annual average of 3.1 million from 2016-2018.

No uptick in migration to suburban areas

The center also mentioned that there was no significant uptick in net migration to suburban areas in 2020, countering the pandemic narrative that people fled crowded cities for roomier communities. 

From March 2020 to March 2021 — 5.1 million Americans moved into suburban areas from other types of communities, compared with 5.6 million who did so on average each year from 2016 to 2018.

The number of Americans moving out of suburbs also went down — 2.9 million Americans left for other types of communities in 2020, compared to an average of 3.3 million in the three years before the pandemic began.

In 2020, 15.8 million of the 26.5 million domestic moves were within the same county.

Moves involving a change in community type — between city, suburban or rural areas — numbered 8.8 million.

Regarding migration out of cities, other recent analysis from the center found that there was increased migration out of New York and San Francisco, but that otherwise, migration patterns did not change much from before 2020 when the pandemic began.