Survey: 66% of American Who Fled Major Cities Amid COVID Do Not Plan to Return

Life during the pandemic has disrupted the movement in and out of major cities U.S. Find out how many people plan to move again or move back according to PropertyNest's most recent survey.

It's no secret that the pandemic has driven people's behavior across the country in unique ways and created patterns in movement and the real estate market which have largely been previously unseen.

For starters, because so many companies now offer and in many cases require employees to work from home, it's given workers across America the ability to work from any place really virtually.

Not only this but many American, bogged down with quarantine fatigue, no longer see the benefits of living in major cities when access to all the perks have been cut off.

This has led to an exodus from most major cities in the United States, where people might have better access to fresh air, nature, larger living spaces, and not to mention, lower prices and cost of living.

Many people decided to move hastily especially with the home-buying craze in the last 10 months or so.

This could lead to many having buyers' remorse, especially for those who didn't do enough research on the neighborhoods or towns they moved to.

In addition, there were many who just relocated temporarily to ride out the pandemic.

PropertyNest wanted to know how many of those who left the cities planned on returning and how many planned on staying put in their new homes.

Survey Highlights


PropertyNest asked:

"If you moved in the last 12 months out of a major city in the U.S., which of these best describes what you plan to do?"

  • A clear majority planned on staying in their new homes, cities, and towns. 66.7% of respondents didn't have any plans to move again. The second most popular answer at 15.5% was that they didn't know what their plans for the future were. Interestingly enough, 5% wished to move somewhere else but not back to the major city they came from.
  • About 10% of all respondents either already moved back to the city they just moved out of or were planning to move back. For nearly one-third of those responses, COVID was the main deterrent to moving back.
  • Male respondents overwhelmingly were not satisfied with their moves over female respondents. Men made up only 44% of those who had no plans to move again. However, they made up 71% of the responses of those who wanted to move somewhere else, 62% of those who already moved back, and nearly 65% of those who wished to move back once COVID was no longer an issue.
  • Respondents ages 18-34 were by far most likely to plan to move back to the city they came from. This includes both male and female respondents.
  • Interestingly while respondents ages 55-64, and 65 and older were far less likely to plan on moving back after COVID or regardless, they made up a third of all respondents who had already moved back to their original major city. However, those in the age range of 35-44 were the largest single age group who already moved back at 28%.

The stats are in and there is no doubt that many major cities across the United States went into a deficit, population-wise. According to, large metropolitan areas like New York City, L.A., San Francisco, and Boston lost big, with anywhere from 50%-68% more people having moved out than moved in.

The biggest gains were found in unexpected places like Boise, Idaho, which would hardly be considered a major metropolitan area, with the population clocking in well below half a million pre-pandemic; or Venice, Florida, which previously numbered below 25,000.

However, over two-thirds of our respondents are choosing to stay in their new respective homes, which could come from a variety of reasons but also translates into a possible population deficit in most major cities. found that the top reasons why people moved had to do with job loss, sheltering with family, safety from COVID, and ability to work from home.

Someone who was caring for family or job loss, or moving to a place with similar city amenities would probably be inclined to stay long-term, while they figure out their next moves. In addition, people who moved not far from their respective cities would probably not feel as much of a push to move back if the city was still accessible.

An example of this is seen with the fact that many New Yorkers moved to the Hudson Valley as well as Long Island; the Hamptons, in particular.

Many People Still Feel Unsettled

What's most striking is that as much as 15% of respondents had no idea what they planned to do next; indicating that they were not completely satisfied with their new location and not necessarily longing for their old home either.

Moving from a city like San Francisco or New York, and finding yourself in Buckeye, AZ could have you thinking twice about your move once you've settled into your new life. After all, this would require a large lifestyle adjustment, which may not be felt as viscerally when you are under lockdown.

The true test will ultimately come when all restrictions are lifted and there is a return to normal life--which could translate into further movement in the near future.

As reported in Bloomberg News, many of the wealthy who flocked to Florida during the pandemic planned to move back to cities like New York or L.A. for a variety of reasons--the primary ones being the culture and lifestyle major cities provide, as well as children's education.

Likewise, the fact that 35-44 year-olds made up a significant portion of those who already returned to their respective cities makes sense as this is the group in most urban areas that usually have children that are school age. Meaning, that leaving the city for a while may have always been a short-term plan for these families, made possible by remote learning and remote working.

Survey Methodology

PropertyNest conducted an online survey among residents of the United States who had moved in the past year on what they planned to do next. The survey collected 2,001 responses from respondents ages 18 and older from February 24 to March 17, 2021, with a margin of error of +/- 1.2%.

Ruth Shin
About the author

Ruth Shin is the Founder and CEO of PropertyNest. She shares in-depth insights on real estate, personal finance, and home improvement drawing from her experience as a licensed real estate agent, editing personal finance publications, and managing many home renovation projects. Ruth graduated with a BA from Hunter College in Writing, History, and Special Honors.