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U.S. Migration Patterns Affected by Pandemic

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Market Data + Trends

U.S. Migration Patterns Affected by Pandemic

Whether fleeing high-case areas, moving in with family, or responding to housing insecurity, many Americans relocated mid-pandemic

November 30, 2021
City migration
Image: Stock.adobe.com

Though a large share of Americans decided to move during the pandemic and in the months that followed, the number of change-of-address requests submitted to the US Postal Service was not significantly different from years past, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Data collected from the USPS also revealed that more individuals moved than families throughout 2020, and most spikes in temporary and permanent moves coincided with the onset of the COVID pandemic in the spring and the first winter wave. 

Individual moves increased during infectious surges of the coronavirus and remained elevated throughout the entirety of 2020, whereas family moves fell at the start of the pandemic and have since remained at low levels. 

In both 2018 and 2019, there were 2–3 million temporary moves, and 31–33 million permanent moves (including individual, family, and business moves) according to USPS data. Despite sporadic spikes, moves have remained within this typical range since the start of the pandemic. There were 31.74 million permanent moves in 2019, which ticked up by one percent to 31.96 million moves in 2020. There were 26 million permanent moves from January–October 2021 (the most recent data available), which is about 800,000 fewer moves than in the same span in both 2019 and 2020. 

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