Arizona is No. 4 for pandemic population growth
The great migration during the pandemic has seen big cities and expensive states lose population, while suburbs and economic localities have rolled out the welcome mat. Arizona has seen its population increase dramatically during the pandemic.
Did you move during the pandemic? You’re not alone. But where did everyone go? Has everyone really left the coasts (ahem, New York and California)?
We looked at the latest US Census population release, the first to consider population at the start of the pandemic (April 1, 2020) and again well before (July 1, 2021), to see which states had the most of population movements — in both directions.
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The states that gained the most in population
By now you’re probably wondering where all those movers ended up. Think of space and suburbs. Also, a more attractive cost of living compared to more prominent locations like New York and California. Spoiler alert: the great outdoors in the West are well represented among the states with the biggest population changes – in the positive column.
5. South Carolina
The only Southern state to make the top five, South Carolina gained more than 72,000 new residents during the pandemic, or 1.41% of its pre-pandemic population.
Between the charm of Charleston, miles of sandy beaches, and the mystique of the lowlands, there’s a lot to love about South Carolina. The draw isn’t just about Southern hospitality, though. For starters, housing here is cheaper than average – and among the cheapest in our top five. As of July, a bedroom in South Carolina will set you back just under $1,200 — a slight increase since the pandemic began, when it was more like $1,061.
Other factors for the influx include job opportunities, warmer temperatures and an abundance of green spaces.
The State of Arizona does not hesitate to attract relocators. As GPEC CEO Chris Camacho told Fox 10 Phoenix, “We’re a magnet for people who want to move out of high-tax, high-cost areas” like California.
So what are the most popular places to move to in Arizona? Tech companies are moving to Chandler, while outdoor enthusiasts are flocking to Flagstaff. Meanwhile, Phoenix’s population is exploding, and towns scattered across the state are welcoming newcomers attracted by both the (lower) cost of living and the wide open spaces of the Sonoran Desert.
What have you been doing during the pandemic? Have you watched a little (OK, four seasons of) “Yellowstone?” Same. And we are not alone. We’d like to hypothesize that more than a few of these binge sessions led to large numbers of city dwellers moving to Montana. To be honest, we’d probably do the same, if we could swing it.
If you’re craving space, Montana is essentially mecca, and plenty of people have been making the pilgrimage during the pandemic. Many have taken advantage of the state’s work-from-home policies and low rent prices that have only come down. A two-bedroom apartment in Montana would have cost you $1,167 when the pandemic was gaining momentum. And last summer? A fee of $960. That’s two bedrooms for less than a grand! Maybe we can swing it after all.
Utah, home to beautiful national parks like Zion, Arches and Canyonlands, attracted the second-highest proportion of new residents during the pandemic, when the population grew by more than 2%.
And although rent prices have gone up a bit in recent months, you can still find great housing deals. Venture beyond Salt Lake and Park City to discover the cheapest towns in Utah for renters. In the summer, average rental prices for one bedroom were $1,237 and $1,650 for two bedrooms. Consider jumping into the guest room – you’re going to have a lot of visitors during ski season.
It turns out that a lot of people who left California headed for beautiful Idaho. Boise is booming to accommodate all these new residents, with schools, roads, hospitals and homes being built seemingly around every corner. Safety is a factor, but so is fantastic weather and outdoor recreation opportunities. There’s also perhaps the biggest draw: a much lower cost of living. Not to mention that the Gem State is undeniably beautiful.
While an influx of relocators is nothing new for the western state, the pandemic has intensified the influx. Over the course of 15 months, Idaho’s population grew nearly 3.5%. So, there’s no better time than the present to explore the best places to live in Idaho where you can expect to pay less than $1,550 for two bedrooms, or about half the cost of the same space. in California.
The states that lost the most population
There have been a lot of headlines about mass exoduses in some very popular and very expensive states during the pandemic. From the Pacific to the Atlantic to the Midwest, quite a few people have packed their bags to leave their state. It is not yet known whether these population changes are temporary or permanent. Here are the states that lost the highest proportion of its population.
You’ve probably read the headlines about Californians leaving the state in droves, but other factors played a role. According to the Los Angeles Times, the top three factors that led to the state’s population decline included lower immigration, fewer births and fewer deaths from the pandemic. If you talk to the people who have flocked to states like Texas, they will tell you a different story. Namely, living in California is simply too expensive.
Consider a city like San Francisco, where the cost of living is 94% higher than the national average. Whatever the reason(s) for over 300,000 residents moving out, a population decline isn’t the worst thing in the world for a historically overcrowded state with a severe affordable housing crisis.
Wait what? Who would want to leave Hawaii – and why? Hint: It’s not just the pandemic. In fact, Hawaii’s population has been declining for five years. Its killer waves and pastel sunsets simply can’t make up for the state’s notoriously high cost of living.
Add to that a high unemployment rate during the pandemic when vacationers collectively halted their plans, and the trend isn’t all that surprising. Still, we have sympathy for the nearly 14,000 people who have said goodbye to island life. Sure, they’re probably paying less rent wherever they landed, but those sunsets are impossible to replace.
Like Hawaii, Illinois’ population decline began long before the pandemic. Eight years before, if you count. Even before the pandemic compounded the problem and pushed emigration to record levels, factors such as housing, job opportunities and taxes were pushing residents to move elsewhere.
The advantage of this exodus could be the price of rents. The cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Illinois rose from $1,657 at the start of the pandemic to $1,268 last summer.
2. New York
Contrary to popular belief, New York City has not seen the largest population decline in proportion during the pandemic. All the familiar factors have played a role, of course, from the exorbitant cost of living in places like New York to unemployment rates pushed to the brink by the pandemic.
And then there’s the simple fact of living in the city during a pandemic. Perhaps at no other time in history have more people needed space to spread out. Unfortunately, being in New York, statewide rent prices actually went up during the pandemic (by around $432).
Unlike some of the other states in our top 5, Washington, DC’s population was not declining before the pandemic. In fact, DC grew for a decade and a half before the pandemic abruptly reversed the trend.
So where is everyone heading when leaving the nation’s capital? Not far, it turns out. According to the Washington Post, at least 31% of those who left landed in the Washington metro area, from Bethesda to Arlington. DC lost nearly 3% of its population as the pandemic shut down cities around the world and residents flocked to the suburbs.
Population changes in each state
Wondering how your home state fared during the pandemic? Have other people arrived or packed their bags? Here are the population gains and losses from coast to coast.