Special Report

Cities That Lost the Most Residents In 2021

TomasSereda / iStock via Getty Images

Many Americans have given up on big city life, opting instead for smaller communities, city-adjacent suburbs, or small rural towns, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from July 2020 to July 2021. (Here are the metro areas with the biggest pandemic population increase.)

To identify cities that lost the most residents, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed metropolitan area population data from the Census Bureau’s Vintage 2021 estimates of population and components of change. Metro areas were ranked by the percent change in population from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021, due to migration alone.

In that period of time, metropolitan areas centered around New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago lost a combined 825,998 people due to net domestic migration. Several metro areas with populations of over 1 million people, including San Diego, Boston, Washington D.C., and Miami each lost tens of thousands of residents in that 12-month period.

While the pandemic played a significant role in this, driving many Americans toward smaller, less densely-populated areas, some of the internal migration trends preceded the COVID-19 outbreak. Years of soaring housing costs have pushed many people to leave expensive cities for lower-cost parts of the country. Unfortunately for many potential home buyers, as a result of this trend, home prices have soared in smaller cities, too, according to a recent analysis from Moody’s Analytics. (Here are the most popular cities for homebuyers.)

By far, California has been most affected by this exodus. Eleven of the 50 metropolitan areas that experienced the biggest drops in local populations were in the Golden State. The San Jose and San Francisco metro areas lost 2.5% and 2.6% of their populations, respectively, in the 12 months to July 2021. Smaller California cities like Napa and Salinas also experienced significant population declines due to more people moving out of these areas than moving in.

It makes sense that California, the nation’s largest state by economic clout and population size, would be most affected by population shifts. But Texas, the country’s second-largest state and economy, has been far less impacted. Only four Texas cities — San Angelo, Laredo, Midland, and Odessa — experienced significant drops to their populations due to domestic migration.

Here are the cities that lost the most population during the pandemic

Source: beklaus / E+ via Getty Images

50. Boulder, CO
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.4%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -1,604
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +191
> Total population, 2021: 329,543

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / E+ via Getty Images

49. Springfield, IL
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.4%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -993
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +87
> Total population, 2021: 206,898

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

48. Alexandria, LA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.4%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -706
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +41
> Total population, 2021: 150,890

Source: gnagel / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

47. Kankakee, IL
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.5%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -515
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +24
> Total population, 2021: 106,601

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46. Bremerton-Silverdale-Port Orchard, WA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.5%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -1,331
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +42
> Total population, 2021: 274,314

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

45. Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.5%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -8,780
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +938
> Total population, 2021: 1,566,487

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Source: BOB WESTON / iStock via Getty Images

44. St Joseph, MO-KS
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.5%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -670
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +45
> Total population, 2021: 120,424

Source: BehindTheLens / E+ via Getty Images

43. Yakima, WA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.5%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -1,591
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +264
> Total population, 2021: 256,035

Source: Carsten Schertzer / iStock via Getty Images

42. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.5%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -4,278
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: -176
> Total population, 2021: 839,784

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Source: Davel5957 / iStock via Getty Images

41. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.5%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -55,305
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +22,764
> Total population, 2021: 6,091,747

Source: cosmonaut / iStock via Getty Images

40. Dubuque, IA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.5%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -601
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +71
> Total population, 2021: 98,718

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Source: BackyardProduction / iStock via Getty Images

39. Vallejo, CA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.5%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -2,495
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +73
> Total population, 2021: 451,716

Source: benkrut / iStock via Getty Images

38. Rockford, IL
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.5%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -1,933
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +105
> Total population, 2021: 336,278

Source: ghornephoto / iStock via Getty Images

37. Peoria, IL
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.6%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -2,417
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +122
> Total population, 2021: 398,224

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

36. Elmira, NY
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.6%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -502
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +11
> Total population, 2021: 83,045

35. Columbus, GA-AL
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.6%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -2,138
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +176
> Total population, 2021: 327,536

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Source: aiisha5 / iStock via Getty Images

34. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.6%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -31,489
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +7,320
> Total population, 2021: 4,011,553

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock via Getty Images

33. Jackson, MS
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.6%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -3,656
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +85
> Total population, 2021: 587,202

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

32. Sioux City, IA-NE-SD
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.6%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -1,079
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +156
> Total population, 2021: 149,265

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31. Pine Bluff, AR
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.6%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -582
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +41
> Total population, 2021: 86,412

Source: f11photo / iStock via Getty Images

30. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.7%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -22,867
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +718
> Total population, 2021: 3,286,069

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Source: f11photo / iStock via Getty Images

29. New Orleans-Metairie, LA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.7%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -9,824
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +1,241
> Total population, 2021: 1,261,726

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

28. Monroe, LA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.7%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -1,456
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +47
> Total population, 2021: 204,884

Source: aguilar3137 / iStock via Getty Images

27. Chico, CA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.7%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -1,453
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +14
> Total population, 2021: 208,309

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

26. Ann Arbor, MI
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.7%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -3,019
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +375
> Total population, 2021: 369,390

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

25. San Angelo, TX
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.7%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -886
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: -4
> Total population, 2021: 122,344

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Source: travelview / iStock via Getty Images

24. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.7%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -3,418
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +91
> Total population, 2021: 446,475

23. Danville, IL
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.8%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -571
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +12
> Total population, 2021: 73,095

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

22. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.8%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -48,040
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +10,505
> Total population, 2021: 4,899,932

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

21. Laredo, TX
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.8%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -2,241
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +155
> Total population, 2021: 267,945

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

20. Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.8%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -3,298
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +118
> Total population, 2021: 389,155

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / E+ via Getty Images

19. Casper, WY
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.8%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -655
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +5
> Total population, 2021: 79,555

Source: Solidago / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

18. Salinas, CA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.8%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -3,563
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: -120
> Total population, 2021: 437,325

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock via Getty Images

17. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.8%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -66,811
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +12,600
> Total population, 2021: 6,356,434

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

16. Grand Forks, ND-MN
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.9%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -944
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +50
> Total population, 2021: 103,462

Source: MasaoTaira / iStock via Getty Images

15. Napa, CA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.9%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -1,196
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: -26
> Total population, 2021: 136,207

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

14. Manhattan, KS
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.9%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -1,306
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +63
> Total population, 2021: 133,932

Source: JHVEPhoto / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

13. Decatur, IL
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -0.9%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -1,002
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +26
> Total population, 2021: 102,432

Source: nata_rass / iStock via Getty Images

12. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -1.0%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -2,596
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: -6
> Total population, 2021: 267,792

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Source: JaySi / iStock via Getty Images

11. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -1.1%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -106,897
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +4,284
> Total population, 2021: 9,509,934

Source: BOB WESTON / iStock via Getty Images

10. Enid, OK
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -1.1%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -756
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +65
> Total population, 2021: 61,926

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Source: Cheri Alguire / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

9. Grand Island, NE
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -1.1%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -947
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +93
> Total population, 2021: 76,175

8. Urban Honolulu, HI
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -1.4%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -14,338
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +652
> Total population, 2021: 1,000,890

Source: Ron and Patty Thomas / E+ via Getty Images

7. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -1.5%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -204,776
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +5,237
> Total population, 2021: 12,997,353

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Source: TomasSereda / iStock via Getty Images

6. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -1.8%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -385,455
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +23,681
> Total population, 2021: 19,768,458

Source: Davel5957 / iStock via Getty Images

5. Midland, TX
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -2.1%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -3,913
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +150
> Total population, 2021: 173,180

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Source: Sundry Photography / iStock via Getty Images

4. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -2.5%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -52,932
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +3,520
> Total population, 2021: 1,952,185

Source: SpVVK / iStock via Getty Images

3. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -2.6%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -128,870
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +4,985
> Total population, 2021: 4,623,264

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

2. Odessa, TX
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -3.6%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -6,012
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +134
> Total population, 2021: 161,091

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

1. Lake Charles, LA
> Pct. change due to migration, 2020 to 2021: -5.3%
> Net domestic migration, 2020 to 2021: -11,914
> Net international migration, 2020 to 2021: +90
> Total population, 2021: 210,362

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