According to the Census Bureau’s Vintage 2022 population estimates, many large cities in the US experienced a decrease in population between 2021 and 2022. This marks a reversal from the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. While almost half of the fastest-declining cities in 2021 had populations of 100,000 or more, only three cities in that category saw population loss a year later. The rate of population loss in 2022 was more in line with pre-pandemic patterns. Major cities like Boston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco fell off the list of the fastest-declining cities from 2021 to 2022. The largest numeric decline was seen in New York City, which lost 123,104 people from 2021 to 2022. However, this was a 60% decrease from its population loss in the previous year. Other large cities that experienced population declines include Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland, and San Jose.
- New York City experienced the largest numeric decline in population, losing 123,104 people from 2021 to 2022.
- Major cities like Boston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco no longer appear on the list of fastest-declining cities.
- The rate of population loss in 2022 was more consistent with pre-pandemic patterns.
- Other large cities that experienced population declines include Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland, and San Jose.
- The trend of population decline in US cities has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the future of big cities may rely on younger generations and new immigrant waves.
Shifts in Urban Population Trends
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on urban population trends in the United States. From July 2020 to July 2021, we witnessed notable population losses in many of the largest metropolitan areas, including San Francisco, New York, and Boston. However, more recent data focusing specifically on cities shows even more dramatic population declines.
In the 2020-2021 period, large cities in aggregate experienced a population loss of 1%, marking the first time this century that they registered a decline. This trend is concerning, as the number of cities losing population also reached historic proportions, with 51 out of the 88 big cities experiencing population loss. Domestic migration played a primary role in these population losses, while decreases in immigration and natural increase also contributed.
The dispersion of population to smaller areas was a noticeable trend. However, the future of big cities in the post-pandemic period may rely on younger generations and new immigrant waves. The allure of urban centers may still be strong for these demographic groups, with the potential for revitalization and growth in the coming years.
It is clear that depopulation trends in American cities have become a significant concern. Major cities in the US are facing population shrinkage, and urban centers across the country are experiencing population loss. The ongoing shifts in urban population trends have far-reaching implications for economic development, social dynamics, and infrastructure planning. As we navigate the aftermath of the pandemic, understanding these trends is crucial for policymakers, urban planners, and individuals looking to make informed decisions about where to live and invest.
Suburban Growth and Population Changes
While the population declines in big cities have garnered attention, it is important to consider the changes in suburban areas as well. Throughout the 2010s, big cities experienced fluctuations in growth rates. The pandemic further impacted city growth, resulting in population losses in many cities from July 2021 to July 2022.
However, the suburbs of major metropolitan areas did not see equivalent rises in growth. Most suburban areas continued to grow more rapidly than the primary cities, although their growth rates also declined during this period. The data shows that 43 out of the 56 major metro area suburbs experienced declining growth or population losses, with 19 suburbs sustaining population losses in 2020-2021.
While the dispersion away from cities may not be permanent, telecommuting and changing patterns of work may have an impact on the future of big cities. Additionally, while some cities may not see a return of those who left, future population gains may come from younger generations and new immigrant waves.