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Major U.S. metros like New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco lost hundreds of thousands of residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and as thousands more seek out rural and suburban living elsewhere, one trend is becoming increasingly clear: Americans no longer want to live in cities. From 2020 to 2021, metropolitan Los Angeles lost nearly 176,000 residents while San Francisco reported a loss of more than 116,000 residents, the American Enterprise Institute reports.

Popular cities like San Jose, Boston, Miami, and Washington each lost tens of thousands of residents during the pandemic, and many migrating residents don’t plan to return. Roughly 15% of Americans say they would prefer living in a town, while 27% favor rural areas compared to just 9% who would prefer to live in a large city.

Indeed, after being homebound for many months due to the pandemic, more Americans now express a desire for personal space than ever before. The majority of Americans today are willing to sacrifice easy access to amenities to have more space to themselves and distance from their neighbors, and city life is simply not where those desires are realized. Perhaps driven by idealized visions of rural life — small, tight-knit communities that move at a more leisurely pace — many Americans express a preference for small-town life.

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