COVID-19: Urbanites Are Looking Beyond the City

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Real Estate

Harris Poll researchers conducted a survey during the coronavirus pandemic (April 25-27).  Nearly 40% of urbanites are considering moving to the suburbs or rural areas (Newman).

Renters and homeowners consider the lockdown as a means of re-evaluating their lifestyle.  Urbanites question the value of small living areas, living costs, the greater ability to work from home (not just the office) and fear of future social distancing lockdowns.  Mega cities such as New York and Los Angeles are the biggest targets, where lockdown rules were most stringent and where virus spread potential is its greatest.

Urban flight is not a new phenomenon.  Post WWII, the federal government encouraged suburban living through various social programs.  However, these programs typically benefited white affluent families.  As more families moved to the suburbs, urban centers lost businesses and revenue.  Urban quality of life degraded.  Minorities became disenfranchised (Nicolaides and Wiese).

More recently, cities with a population of over 1 million have seen their residents leave.  Chicago being a prime local example where its population has decreased every year from 2015-2019 (Reyes and Lourgos).

COVID-19 has made people reconsider urban living.  Those who chose to move their families and careers to a less densely populated area are more likely to be financially well off.  If urban flight takes place, the move will expose the greater social and economic issues of major cities.  This dynamic is different than previous years.  At this point, we don't know how many will make this choice or how to quantify its effect on future urban life.

  City of Chicago

Newman, Katelyn. “Survey Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, Urbanites Are Eyeing the Suburbs.” In the News COVID-19, n.d.

Nicolaides, Becky, and Andrew Wiese. “Suburbanization in the United States after 1945.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, 2017.

Reyes, Cecilia, and Angie Leventis Lourgos. “Chicago Area Drops Population for Fourth Straight Year, Census Data Show; Cook, DuPage and Lake Counties Also Decline.”, April 18, 2019.