As the pandemic has unfolded, there have been many articles about people wanting to get out of crowded, expensive cities — especially if they were having to work from home and could do so more comfortably elsewhere. A Lending Tree survey found that nearly half of all Americans were thinking about moving to reduce living expenses.

In a different survey conducted by the Pew Research Center last June, it was revealed that one-in-five Americans either had relocated due to the pandemic or knew someone who had moved. But the Neighbor 2020 – 2021 American Migration Report aimed to find out just how many people would plan to move in 2021 and explored their reasons for wanting to move. Here are some of the insights gleaned from that survey to consider as we look down the path for 2021:

  • 56% of Americans plan to move in 2021, compared to just 35% who moved in 2020. Typically, we would see something closer to 13% of Americans who would expect to move annually
  • The majority of those moving aren’t relocating due to safety concerns related to COVID-19 like we would have expected.
  • While 18% of respondents who plan to move in 2021 are able to do so as a result of job flexibility brought on by the 2019 coronavirus, most are ultimately doing so to lower their cost of living.
  • With more living space being a key deciding factor in where people plan to move and about 40% of movers relocating from larger cities to smaller communities, the finding that homeownership is on the rise makes sense.

So is the "big city obituary" for real?

While many people did initially respond to pandemic experiences by moving away from expensive cities — which caused us to wonder whether this was the end for some big, expensive cities — newer research from Bloomberg CityLab shared below found that is not actually likely to be the long-term impact. The research calls the long-term urban exodus a myth. Most city-dwellers are actually happy with where they live and want to stay put. 

"Rather than decamping for the suburbs, as has been widely (and anecdotally) reported, city residents remain committed to cities. But beyond the immediate challenges, they want longstanding problems of urban life addressed, and are willing to embrace changes in policy and personal behavior to do so."  

Ultimately, only 8% say they would prefer to live in the suburbs. Notably, big city residents are especially eager to stay in cities. Nearly 70% of the people surveyed in metro New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix and Philadelphia say they prefer to live in a big city.  This report would suggest that the answer to our title question is "no," the "big city obituary" is not real. 

As the fears of the pandemic ease, and as new work models are deployed and as we move ahead over the next few years, what are you predicting for big cities?