Two Million People Bolted From America’s Major Cities Since The Lockdowns
California To Ban Sale Of New Gas Cars By 2035 OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 24: Traffic backs up at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge toll plaza on August 24, 2022 in Oakland, California. California is set to implement a plan to prohibit the sale of new gasoline-powered cars in the state by 2035 in an effort to fight climate change by transitioning to electric vehicles. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Justin Sullivan / Staff
Justin Sullivan/Staff via Getty Images

Millions of people left major cities in the United States between 2020 and 2022, years dominated by government lockdown policies and elevated crime rates, according to an analysis released last week by the Economic Innovation Group.

Domestic outmigration from large urban counties reached 1.2 million residents in 2021 and 861,000 residents in 2022, implying that more than two million people moved from large cities in recent years. The trend contributed to a population surge in the suburbs and exurbs, which saw 486,000 and 822,000 new residents, respectively, between 2020 and 2022.

Increased rates of immigration from outside of the United States, however, added 507,000 residents to large cities in 2022, an increase from 186,000 residents in 2021 as worldwide travel restrictions eased. “Though large urban counties have not yet rebounded from large population outflows experienced in 2020 and 2021, they did nearly halt overall population loss in 2022, buoyed by more normal rates of international migration,” the analysts summarized.

Individuals who took advantage of remote work policies appear to have accelerated the domestic migration phenomena even as constrained housing markets likely slowed the trends.

“We find work-from-home related fundamentals remained important drivers of population shifts in 2022 but less than they were in 2021. One reason may be that the shift to remote work early in the pandemic was a one-time shock and this led to a one-time, temporary change in migration patterns, which are now converging towards normal,” the analysts said. “Alternatively, remote work may have an impact on migration patterns that will take a longer time to unfold. In this case, the weaker relationship with work-from-home fundamentals may be due to housing supply becoming a more binding constraint to work-from-home-driven population shifts.”

Lockdown mandates caused low labor force participation and supply chain bottlenecks, worsening already lackluster levels of new construction for residential real estate. Median home sale prices increased from $322,600 in the second quarter of 2020 to $467,700 in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Data released by the Census Bureau at the end of last month demonstrate that counties home to major cities in California, Illinois, and New York witnessed the nation’s most stark numeric population decline last year, while those home to major cities in Arizona, Texas, and Florida saw the largest numeric population growth. Los Angeles County, California, lost more residents than any other county in the United States as the population fell by 91,000 between July 2021 and July 2022. Cook County, Illinois, whose county seat is Chicago, saw its population decrease by 68,000 over the same time horizon.

Population trends correspond with the cities and states which enforced aggressive lockdown mandates. California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom only reversed the state of emergency established amid the spread of COVID as late as February 2023, while Chicago Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot informed unvaccinated residents as late as December 2021 that their “time is up” and said her health mandates were “inconvenient by design.”


Elevated violent crime and property crime rates in American cities have contributed to an exodus of businesses and residents. The phenomenon has continued into 2023: Walmart announced this week that the firm would shutter four stores in Chicago, while Whole Foods unveiled the forthcoming closure of the organic grocer’s flagship location in San Francisco.

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