Pandemic movers sought affordability, but not too far away, USPS data shows

The data for the full year is in, and it’s officially time to put the “Cities Are Dead” narrative to bed.

Yes, it’s true: in general, more people left major cities than they moved over the course of the weird 2020 year, but in terms of raw numbers, the population changes were minimal, according to the United States Postal Service’s mail forwarding data.

A separate statewide survey by Bankrate / YouGov found that 16 percent of respondents moved in 2020, but that rate rose to 32 percent for Gen Zers and 26 percent for Millennials. People said they got closer to friends or family in order to find a better cost of living or to find more space.

The three main departure cities: New York (Manhattan), Houston and Austin have each lost less than 15,000 inhabitants. The rest of the top 10 lost less than 10,000 residents in total, according to the postal service.

The USPS data has some limitations. The 12,681,085 address change requests analyzed by Bankrate, which affected January 1 to December 31, 2020, were grouped by postcode and only registered movements within or between postcodes with at least 10 requests during this period. For example, if three people or families move from Bethpage, NY 11714, to Myrtle Beach, SC 29577, that couple will not appear in the record, but if 11 people or families do the same, they will. Even so, the numbers offer some good insight into movement patterns during the pandemic.

Here are the biggest moving trends for 2020 the USPS numbers reveal:

Moving companies preferred smaller towns or less dense neighborhoods

Take Manhattan as a case study. In the course of 2020, New York’s densest neighborhood lost around 12,000 net residents to other zip codes. Of those who moved out, more than a third went directly across the East River to Brooklyn, the city’s most populous neighborhood. Brooklyn is less dense than Manhattan, however, so movers may have been looking for a place to breathe.

In a recent Q&A, Ray Rodriguez, the regional mortgage sales manager for New York at TD Bank, said these answers reflected what he saw in his job.

“The suburbs are very much alive in New York City,” he said. “People who are used to living an urban lifestyle will continue an urban lifestyle. I think of two of my co-workers who bought condominiums in town and upgraded them to have outdoor space. “

Less dense peripheral areas were top targets for excerpts from all major cities that exceeded the USPS data.

Gen Zers and Millennials are most likely to move, poll results

A Bankrate / YouGov poll found that 10 percent of Americans moved or relocated in 2020 due to COVID and were still relocated as of February. About 6 percent moved but had returned by then. And 84 percent of those surveyed did not move during the year.

About 18 percent of moving companies looked for new homes in 2020 because they wanted more space, with Gen Zers and Millennials being the most likely to move at 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Blacks had moved and never returned a third more often than whites.

Here are some of the top trends the survey found:

  • 31 percent got closer to family / friends
  • 27 percent wanted a more affordable life
  • 21 percent moved for their job
  • 18 percent needed more space
  • 17 percent wanted a different climate
  • 17 percent have moved because they can now work remotely from anywhere

The moving companies weren’t too far from home

Those who moved during the pandemic mostly stayed pretty close to the homes they were leaving.

Of the 12,681,085 relocation address change requests, just over half a million sample requests were from those who had moved to another county; The rest stayed in the same county, zip code, city, or rural area. Similarly, only 42,000 change requests are moved to another state.

Four of the five main departure cities were Houston, Austin, Orlando and Dallas. For all of these cities, the top five moving destinations were less than 30 miles away. New York (Manhattan) was the number one city for moving out in 2020, and three of the top five destinations for its moving company were less than 15 miles away. The other top Manhattanites destinations were more than 100 miles away on Long Island in the Hamptons Beach Communities, where many Manhattan residents own second homes.

Housing affordability was key

It might not be obvious when looking at the postal service’s data for the first time, but a little digging shows that many moving companies were likely motivated by cheaper living costs in 2020 as well.

The pandemic brought job changes to much of the workforce as shops and public facilities closed and many companies switched to remote operations. As more employees worked remotely, many had newfound flexibility in their circumstances. For those who lost their jobs during the pandemic, housing affordability was an even more important factor in their decision to move.

Nathaniel Hunt lived in New York for 11 years and danced with the Metropolitan Opera ballet corps before the pandemic shut off most of the live performances in the city.

“It was a big change in life,” he said. “My art form, my vehicle, could not be adapted to the same places as my opera singer friends, for example.”

With no live performances, which were his main source of income, Hunt said he relied on unemployment benefits to pay his rent. When the additional $ 600 per week that was part of the original CARES Act relief ran out, he could no longer afford to stay in Manhattan and moved back to Maryland in August to stay with his parents.

Almost a third of respondents to the Bankrate / YouGov survey said getting close to friends or family was a motivating factor, while more than a quarter said finding an affordable living was a major reason for their decision to move. This search for more affordable housing was reflected in the USPS change of address details.

For all five of the top departure cities, the top move destinations were locations with lower cost of living.

Hunt moved to Los Angeles again in October. Today he lives with friends in a cheaper place with more open space than in New York.

After George Floyd’s death, Hunt organized performance-based social justice fundraisers that he could not have run if he had stayed in New York for the duration of the pandemic.

The change opened him up to the idea of ​​a more mobile lifestyle, even when the coronavirus was brought under control.

“Why can’t I have both?” he said. “I plan to return to New York. I also feel that this new community and network that I spawned in LA is not going to leave me. “

Hunt’s position underscores what many experts have predicted: Even after the pandemic, people will likely continue to want more flexible lifestyles.

Zach Wichter story, Bankrate.

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