Special Report

These Places Shrunk the Most in the Last Year

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans essentially sheltered in place. According to the Pew Research Center, residential relocations in 2020 hit its lowest rate since the government began tracking that data more than seven decades earlier.

Though a smaller share of Americans relocated domestically, millions still did, affecting population sizes in some states, cities, and counties. Now we have an idea of the places where the population declined the most from the summer of 2020 to the summer of 2021. (These are the 16 states where the population shrank since the pandemic started.)

To identify the 50 counties that shrunk the most in the last year, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed population data from the U.S. Census Bureau. U.S. counties and county equivalents were ranked based on the percent change in residents from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021. 

The 50 U.S. counties (or county equivalents like boroughs, municipalities, or parishes) whose populations declined the most during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic vary in size, from tiny Loving County, Texas, population 57, to Kings County, New York, (Brooklyn) population 2.6 million. These 50 counties are home to about 12.4 million Americans, based on 2021 U.S. Census Bureau data.

The net population loss in these 50 counties ranged from 2.5% to nearly 15%. While the median population of these counties was 5,045, nine represent 94% of the total population of these 50 counties. These most densely-populated nine counties include San Francisco, Washington D.C., and four of New York City’s five boroughs.

In other words, while Loving County’s net loss of just 10 residents amounted to a 15% decline in population in the 12 months to July 1, 2021, New York County’s net loss of 110,000 residents during that time amounted to a 6.6% drop in Manhattan’s population. (Find out if any of the counties on the list are among the worst counties to live in.)

A dozen of these 50 counties are located in Texas, but they represent only 193,000 residents. By comparison, five counties or boroughs in New York that experienced an average net decline in population of 3.6% during the pandemic are home to about 8 million residents, or 64% of the total population of counties on this list.  

Click here to see these counties shrunk the most in the last year
Click here to read our detailed methodology

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