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New York City has lost nearly a half-million residents in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with most of them flocking to southern states, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
The U.S. Census Bureau revealed on May 18 that more than 468,200 residents left the Big Apple between April 2020 and July 2022; that’s a 5.3 percent decrease. The most significant decline occurred between 2020 and 2021, with a loss of slightly over 281,000 individuals.
Only three U.S. cities surveyed during the same time frame suffered a worse population decline. San Francisco experienced a loss of 7.5 percent of its residents, while Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Revere, Massachusetts, lost 6.9 percent and 5.9 percent respectively.
New York City still remains America’s most populated city, with more than 8.3 million individuals calling it home. Previous census data released in March showed that Manhattan was the only borough to see a resurgence in its population in the past few years, with an increase of 17,472 residents in 2022.
Los Angeles, the country’s second most populous city with over 3.8 million residents, also saw a population decline of about 76,000. Chicago, which ranked third with an estimated 2.7 million residents as of last July, has seen a decrease of more than 81,000 since April 2020.
Rounding out the top five most-populated U.S. cities as of July 2022 were Houston and Phoenix.
While Houston’s population declined from 2020 to 2021, it surged to more than 2.3 million by last July. Phoenix has seen a steady increase of nearly 46,000 people during the three years, recording an estimated 1.64 million residents in July 2022.
Reasons for population changes vary from city to city, driven by housing costs, jobs, births, and deaths. According to Postal Service data seen by Forbes, many Americans are leaving large cities and chilly states for “less congested areas and warmer climes.”
Growth in Southern States
According to the census data, most city-dwellers fled to the South. Nine of the nation’s 15 fastest-growing cities were in the South, six of which were in Texas.
Georgetown, Texas, situated about 30 miles north of Austin, had the largest population boom among major cities last year, with 14.4 percent more people living in the city.
“Georgetown, Texas, remained the fastest-growing city by percent change in 2022, with the highest rate of growth among all U.S. cities and towns with at least 50,000 people,” said Crystal Delbé, a statistician in the Census Bureau’s Population Division.
However, Delbé said, it wasn’t the only city to retain its distinction over the year.
Following Georgetown, Texas, was Santa Cruz, California, with a 12.5 percent increase, adding roughly 7,000 people to its population. The next three fastest-growing cities were also in Texas—Kyle, Leander, and Little Elm.
Experts say the Southern allure has to do with a mix of housing affordability, lower taxes, the popularity of remote work during the pandemic era, and baby boomers retiring.
The state of Florida gained more than 655,200 people between 2020 and 2022, the data shows.
Data from Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles revealed that more than 126,000 New Yorkers had exchanged their Empire State licenses for Florida IDs since the beginning of 2021.
If the trend continues through the rest of this decade, by 2030, the mean center of the U.S. population will head due south from a rural county in the Missouri Ozarks, without a westward extension for the first time in history, according to urban planner Alex Zakrewsky, who models the population center.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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