Across the country, major central business districts in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle sit strangely empty as employers continue to put staff to work remotely. On the way to the holidays, only 1 in 10 office workers returned to Manhattan.
But does the disruption caused by the pandemic – and the work of the domestic boom – actually convince Americans to pack their bags and move out?
Discover, Fortune and SurveyMonkey surveyed 2,098 American adults in November *. This poll, which has a modeled error estimate of +/- 3%, is an even deeper study than our august look at migration.
Discovery? Millions of Americans have moved in the wake of the pandemic – and millions more are planning to do so. Among U.S. adults, 16% say they left their city / county during the pandemic (6%) or plan to move in the next 12 months (12%). About 2% of Americans who moved during the pandemic plan to start again in 2021. Usually only 3.7% of Americans cross county borders in any given year. If this forecast comes true, it would mark the biggest year of migration in decades.
The pandemic, in many ways, has disproved the idea that businesses can only operate and innovate in an office. So it’s no surprise that cities and urban areas – the long-standing foundations of Corporate America – are losing the most residents: with 4% of rural Americans and 7% of suburban Americans say they plan to leave their county town over the next 12 months, that figure is 9% among American adults living in urban areas.
But just because someone leaves a city does not mean that they completely leave the cities. They could flee expensive San Jose, to Denver or Austin, for example.
Not all of these pandemic movements can be attributed to the WFH. Look no further than Jamil Dawson, who lived in Calera, Alabama before the pandemic. During COVID, he saw friends and community members see their long-standing jobs disappear overnight. It was a wake-up call for Dawson, who was reminded that opportunities and jobs are fleeting. This motivated the 40-year-old in the summer of 2020 to accept a promotion to executive director at a health clinic, which moved his family three hours from their home in Alabama to Starkville, Mississippi.
“We can make plans and get comfortable in a job, and say, ‘I can move forward in five years.’ But you might not be five. COVID made this very clear, ”Dawson said Fortune.
During the pandemic, Gen Z (9%) and Gen Y (7%) evolved at much higher rates than Gen X (3%) and Baby Boomers (3%). For Gen Z, an age cohort that falls somewhere between college and early in their careers, some move home with mom and dad while school is away. Other Gen Zs and Millennials are saving money by not renewing apartment leases in big cities and falling apart with family or friends until things get back to normal. the normal.
Our data suggests Gen Z and Millennials will continue to evolve at high rates in 2021, however, Millennials are actually expected to get ahead of their younger peers: Among Millennials, 20% say they will move within 12 months, compared to 16% of Generation Zers. Meanwhile, just 10% of Gen Xers and 7% of Baby Boomers say they are likely to leave their city or county.
Why would millennials (born 1981-1996) be uprooted at such a level in 2021? One theory: Millennials are quickly approaching their 30s and 40s and they could use this pandemic as motivation to settle down, whether it’s near their families or in the suburbs for space. Unlike their younger Gen Z counterparts, Millennials would simply have needed more time – perhaps to find a new school or a job for both spouses – before they took the big step.
* Methodology: The Fortune-SurveyMonkey survey was conducted among a national sample of 2,098 adults in the United States between November 9 and 10. The estimate of the modeled error for this survey is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The results were weighted according to age, race, gender, education and geography.
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