Look At The Numbers: Adjacent Cities Grew During Pandemic


There are those who downright groove to the tune of a lifestyle embedded squarely in the middle of the action.

You know, the big city, the vibe of being at the nexus of it all. Downright intoxicating.

Conversely, others are swayed by the tranquility of a smaller city or town, finding it as relaxing as, oh, say, a running tab on hot totties. Oh, yeah. Pure nirvana.

Now, for those who prefer to be where life can be chill but also gyrate to the beat of maintaining relatively close proximity to where it can be a regular buzzsaw of activity as well, the concept of adjacent cities just might speak their language.

Adjacent towns or cities share a common border with larger metros.

Steven Bishop, a professor of mathematics at UCL, told The Mortgage Note that roughly 1.7 million people moved from the cities to the countryside while only 1.6 million moved the other way from the countryside to the cities in recent years.

“Moreover, those people who do migrate from a small city tend to migrate to a city roughly the same size,” Bishop said.

This wasn’t always the case.

“The data indicates that for the period 2010 to 2014, the people living in a small city migrated more frequently than those who lived in a large city,” added Bishop.

Of course, it’s also important to bear in mind the influence of COVID-19 on the decision of some to call small — or smaller town living — home. During the year of the pandemic, larger metro areas experienced a loss of residents, according to estimates recently released by the US Census Bureau, stated brookings.edu.

The period July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021, shows an “absolute decline” in the aggregate size of the nation’s 56 major metropolitan areas — or those with populations escalating past one million.

Simultaneously, as a group, smaller metro areas saw a greater population spike than in each of the previous two years. Non-metropolitan America showed the greatest annual population gain in more than a decade.

Between 2020 and 2021:

The Los Angeles metro area lost 176,000 residents, San Francisco saw a decrease of 116,000 residents, and Chicago lost 91,000 people.

San Jose, Boston, Miami, and Washington, D.C., all lost tens of thousands of residents, according to AP News.

“The exodus from the biggest U.S. metropolitan areas was led by New York, which lost almost 328,000 residents,” reported ABC Los Angeles.

So where did these people move to?

A survey by the Pew Research Center shows that in the 50 most populated cities in the country, 84% of moves were within the perimeter of the central metro area, most commonly stemming from financial factors. Even those who gave themselves some distance from urban centers tended to remain within a 100 to 150 mile radius and they continued to engage in the regional economy of the community they left.

Migration to nearby regions is up over 10% for New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, and Denver, Stephan Whitaker, policy economist, Regional Analysis & Outreach, Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, told The Mortgage Note.

“This corresponds to approximately 57,000 more people leaving these metros in a year but staying close enough to drive back,” Whitaker said. 

He added that nearby moves are up more than 5% for Washington, DC, Riverside, and Boston.

“Which means about 15,000 more people are moving to a nearby region relative to a pre-pandemic year,” Whitaker said.

Will this trend continue?

Now that offices are reopening, some people who live in large cities may feel compelled to stay within commuting distance.

And with interest rates and home prices up, those who would have considered moving out of these cities to buy a home will likely hold off for a while until the market normalizes.

Josh Noble is a film and stage actor who has done the migration out from urban hubs to the suburbs but has found himself back into the heart of Atlanta’s Midtown District.

Noble had several thoughts on why to leave the big city and why to go back.

“Leaving NYC in 2019 for the peaceful, quiet country life in small town Georgia was quite an adjustment,” Noble said. “Not knowing the pandemic was just around the corner, that change allowed ample space to distance from others during a difficult time for the world. With that peace and quiet also came a lack of ease and comfort that cities provide. Food delivery, grocery delivery, etc. Then moving to Atlanta brought back the chance to order in and walk to restaurants. The tradeoff is obviously the size of what you pay for in housing.”

Now having migrated out, then back in again, Noble was able to discuss real cost from both points of view.

“Rent and cost of living has skyrocketed all across the country,” Noble added. “This is seen the most in larger cities where the demand is so high. Apartments that would have been $1,200 in NYC a few years ago are now going for well over $3,000. Atlanta prices aren’t quite as bad, but still much higher than usual. The biggest loss living in the heart of a city is definitely space… and peace and quiet. “

Considering cost and distance factors, Noble said when he and his husband were out in the ‘country’ his husband had a one-hour commute into the city, if traffic was good. If traffic was picking up it would grow to one-hour and 15 minutes, but if there were a crash or work zone type volume, all bets are off on how long of drive it could become. Now living intown, his husband’s office commute is usually about 15 minutes.   

Writer Scott Kimbler contributed to this report.

Read More Articles By Chuck Green:

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Email story ideas to Editor Kimberley Haas: [email protected]