When the pandemic struck the United States last year, New York City quickly became the hotbed of the country.
Living in high-density areas became difficult due to the need to avoid direct interaction with other citizens as a result of distancing regulations. As a consequence, New York City saw a surge of pandemic-induced migrations, predominantly to less heavily populated places in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast.
Throughout the last year, New York has regularly seen more out-of-state moving than most other states, placing it on a list of the top ten states with the highest relocation. The pandemic altered the motivations for residents to relocate, contributing to New York’s ascension to the top of the list.
Why are New Yorkers leaving?
New York is one of the most expensive states to live in and residents are facing significant challenges due to high housing costs, deteriorating infrastructure, and high tax rates. Many residents seem to be fed up with how crowded the city has become, the number of homeless people that could potentially pose a danger to personal safety, the cleanliness of the city as well as the increasing crime rate. These are all valid reasons that people seriously consider when they choose to leave NYC, but let’s take a closer look at some of them:
- Living costs. New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world so naturally, the decision to relocate could be motivated by economic considerations. Living costs can be extremely high and as numerous recent studies have shown, that has triggers a wide range of issues especially for the younger generation, starting with an anxiety and depression epidemic.
- Homeownership. Some people may be taking advantage of historically low interest rates to become homeowners. Buying a house in NYC can be extremely challenging due to the high prices and almost impossible for millennials or minimum wage workers. It’s only natural for people to prefer paying a mortgage rather than a high rent and relocating to cheaper areas can be a great solution.
- The need for a bigger space. It’s no secret that most affordable New York apartments are small, which is ok when you are in your 20’s. But when planning for a family, people most definitely start thinking about having bigger houses which can accommodate all family members and their needs. Moving to cheaper states can offer the possibility to almost double the size of the home, and have the mortgage payment minimally increase.
- Warmer weather. Many people long for warmer or more friendly weather so moving to states like California seems to be the perfect fix.
- Moving closer to family. More people than ever before are fleeing NYC and relocating to other states to be closer to family.
- New Job. The most common reason for relocating across states has been for a new career. But although this is still among the most common causes, it seems to have decreased as a factor during the pandemic.
Has the pandemic drastically influenced moving patterns?
One thing has been certain regarding COVID-19: the virus spreads quicker among people who are in near proximity, considering that it can float through the air in tiny moisture droplets or penetrate your system through contact with an infected person. To make matters even more complicated, many people are asymptomatic, which means they are contagious but do not feel or appear sick.
Densely populated cities and crowded spaces pose a higher risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19 and make it much harder to maintain safe distance measures. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that people would prefer to migrate to areas with fewer people, where the risk of infection might be lower.
Dropping aside safety concerns, remote working has brought people to the realisation that they can now carry on with their lives remotely from any place. As a result, people are leaving heavily populated cities in favor of suburbs or smaller towns around the country.
One of the major factors prompting the mass moving was due to baby boomers relocating for retirement. Many people have had a plan to relocate to other states after retiring, but with the pandemic hitting these plans got accelerated. Rather than waiting a few years, remote work has given people about to retire the possibility of moving to a new state sooner than planned.
Another harsh reality of the past year is that many people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic hitting and with the high costs of rent and living, they simply could not afford to live in NYC anymore and chose to relocate either to cheaper cities or states or even move back with their families.
Will this trend continue even after the pandemic is over?
The pandemic has critically influenced our behaviour and changes that spawned from that seem to be here to stay. From paying closer attention to hygiene, remote working, and putting more emphasis on home comfort and our well-being. It’s very much probable that people will choose more and more to run from overcrowded cities, both as a precautionary method, a sort of post covid PTSD, as well as for simply choosing a more calmer environment.
Many people have reevaluated their priorities over the past year, have come to realizations, and drawn conclusions. It’s impossible for the pandemic to not leave a deep mark of this subject as well. Many people understood the importance of having more space, breathing fresher air, having more intimacy, and overall, putting less financial pressure on themselves.
About the Author
Michaela Smith is the marketing director of Empire Movers, a New York-based moving company that has more than 15 years of experience in local and long-distance moving, as well as in commercial moving.