Special Report

Metro Areas With the Biggest Pandemic Population Increase

When the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head in 2020, it upended just about every aspect of the everyday life we had become accustomed to. Schools and businesses shut down, social distancing became de rigueur, and many people began working remotely. With this upheaval, some people began rethinking their living situation and decided to relocate. 

To identify America’s fastest growing metro areas during the pandemic, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed population change data from the U.S. Census Bureau. We ranked all U.S. metro areas on the percent change in residents from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021. The fastest growing metros added anywhere from 1.5% to 5.1% during the pandemic.

The components of population change are net migration – the number of people who moved to a given metro area less the number of people who move out – and natural population change, which is the number of births less the number of deaths. (Due to margins of error in census estimates, the raw population change number is close to, but not precisely equal to, the sum of net migration and natural population change.) 

People decide to move for a host of reasons. Some are simply looking to upgrade to a nicer house or apartment. Some start a new job. Some grow their family. Some move in order to send their kids to better schools or to escape to a more hospitable climate. (See the state where the population has grown the most since the pandemic.)

From March to November 2020, at the height of the pandemic, about 5% of Americans moved either permanently or temporarily, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. A full third of those people moved for financial reasons, 17% moved to be near family or a partner, and 14% moved to a place with a lower coronavirus risk.

During the first year of the pandemic, it might have seemed as if lots of people moved, but in reality, overall moves plummeted to the lowest levels since 1947, with only 8.2% of residents moving, down from 9.0% the year before, according to Census Bureau data. The percentage of people who move has actually been consistently declining since the 1960s, when about one-fifth of Americans changed residences annually. (These are the years the most Americans moved since 2000.)

The trend during the pandemic continued the longer-term of Americans moving to Sun Belt states, mostly from the Northeast to the South and the West. This was no different among the fastest growing metros, with 15 of the metro areas on the list located in Florida, six in Georgia, five in Idaho, and three each in Arizona, Texas, Alabama, and North Carolina.

Click here to see metro areas with the biggest pandemic population increase

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