Report: Residents Returning to New York City After Out-Migration Tripled During Pandemic
Real Estate In-Depth | November 18, 2021
NEW YORK—Residents who fled New York City during the early days of the pandemic, particularly the wealthiest neighborhoods, are beginning to return.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released a comprehensive analysis earlier this week (Nov. 15) of the pandemic’s impact on monthly migration patterns into and out of the city. Using data published by the United States Postal Service (USPS) from change of address forms, the analysis confirms that New York City’s net residential out-migration tripled from 2019 to 2020. The data show that the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods experienced the most population loss; residents in the wealthiest 10% of city neighborhoods, as measured by median income, were 4.6 times more likely to move than other residents during 2020.
In more recent months, the reopening of office buildings, the return of in-person school, and the rebirth of arts and entertainment have helped to attract movers to the city. Since July 2021, USPS data has shown an estimated net gain of 6,332 permanent movers, mainly in neighborhoods that experienced the greatest flight, according to the report.
“New York City is steadily reopening and New Yorkers are returning to the city we love—that’s why it’s vital that we invest in the value proposition that is New York City and make sure we continue to be the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” said New York City Comptroller Stringer. “That means investing in our classrooms and teachers so our children get the very best education, investing in affordable and accessible child care so parents can return to work, and investing in our streetscapes and green spaces to ensure that our neighborhoods are walkable and breathable. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine our city and build back stronger than ever from the losses of the pandemic.”
Despite recent gains, certain neighborhoods have a long road ahead to regain pre-pandemic population. Whether or not these gains continue and accelerate will depend on the trajectory of the pandemic and the city’s ability to maintain in-person activities and attractions, as well as the endurance of telework arrangements and workers’ ability and desire to live farther from their place of work as commuting becomes less burdensome.
Major findings of the analysis include:
• In the first three months of the pandemic, from March to May 2020, more than 60% of net moves from city addresses were marked as temporary, indicating that the person or household intended to return, but since then 79% of net moves have been marked as permanent.
• Excluding moves marked as “temporary,” net out-migration from the city increased by an estimated 130,837 from March 2020 through June 2021, as compared to pre-pandemic trends.
• Residents from the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods were the most likely to leave. Residents in the wealthiest 10% of city neighborhoods, as measured by median income, were 4.6 times more likely to leave than other residents during 2020, recording 109 net move-outs per 1,000 residents vs 24 elsewhere. Moves from wealthier neighborhoods were also more likely to be recorded as temporary. About half of net out-migration from the wealthiest 10% of neighborhoods was marked as temporary in 2020, compared to 44% in the next wealthiest decile and less than 30% elsewhere.
• In September 2021, New York City public schools and colleges opened to full-time, in-person learning; some employers, including city government, called office workers back; and the curtains rose on Broadway after an 18-month shutdown. Not surprisingly, these events coincided with an improvement in net residential migration to the city, particularly in the neighborhoods that experienced the greatest flight in the spring of 2020.
• Since July 2021, USPS data has shown an estimated net gain of 6,332 permanent movers, indicating a gradual return to New York City, mainly in neighborhoods that experienced the greatest flight. On a per-capita basis, the largest net gains over the summer were in Chelsea/Midtown, Murray Hill/Gramercy, Battery Park City/Greenwich Village, and Chinatown/Lower East Side.