Remote Work, Rising Home Prices Still Influence Population Migration, Data Reveals

Originally published on April 5, 2023, by Adam Ozimek and Connor O'Brien for the Economic Innovation Group.

Key Findings

  • Though large urban counties have not yet rebounded from large population outflows experienced in 2020 and 2021, they did nearly halt overall population loss in 2022, buoyed by more normal rates of international migration.
  • Exurban and suburban counties continued to benefit from domestic migration, adding over 800,000 new residents from other county types on net. 
  • Remote work-related factors continued to drive domestic population movements in 2022, though they were less important than between 2020 and 2021. 
  • Rising home prices in places with inelastic housing supplies are likely slowing migration to counties that might otherwise benefit more from remote work.




New data on 2022 county-level population changes continue to suggest that the pandemic is having profound and lasting impacts on economic geography. In important ways, however, these developments have slowed in 2022 compared to the drastic changes seen in 2021. In particular, large urban counties pared population losses from 2021, but have not seen renewed growth overall. 

The dominant story from last year’s county-level population trends was the Covid-era flight from big cities to suburban and exurban communities. Revised data since 2020 shows large urban counties saw combined population losses of 812,000 between July 1, 2020 and July 1 2021. The rate of population loss in such counties slowed nearly to a halt through July 2022, a 12-month period during which urban counties saw combined declines of just 70,000 residents. 

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