Is The Aftermath Of Covid-19 Driving People To Leave Large Cities?

Will one of the aftereffects of the coronavirus pandemic be people moving out of large cities and their surrounding exurban areas to smaller suburban and rural areas? From personally gathered anecdotal evidence I’d have to say the answer to that question is yes.

I know that demand for homes up here in New Hampshire is high and inventory is low. From some of the realtors I know I have learned that a lot of that demand is being driven by folks “from away”, meaning folks from the Greater Boston area, Metro New York, and New Jersey. It isn’t vacation homes that many of these folks have been looking for (though the demand for vacation homes hasn’t diminished), but primary homes.

Then there’s this from a Rasmussen poll:

Pollsters often ask respondents what they expect to happen generally. When you look at the data by age, those between 18 and 44 hold that opinion at higher rates than the average.

This is particularly interesting because millennials, who are currently aged 24 to 39, have a well-documented preference for urban living. Yet in this survey, that age group says there will be an exodus from urban areas at rates of 44% and 47% respectively. Perhaps coronavirus has taught them that shuttling on a jam-packed human meat tube through an underground tunnel may have some downsides. While this pandemic has proven most dangerous to those over 65, that is not always true. Both H1N1 and the Spanish Flu had far higher mortality rates in the working-age population.


The pandemic has resulted in other changes that may make living outside the city more appealing. Economists predict the forced teleworking arrangements may outlast the pandemic. Companies that were slow to gravitate to work-from-home arrangements because of company culture or distrust have been forced to adopt the practice. Many are finding these arrangements are just as productive and can reduce their brick-and-mortar overhead costs. Amazon and Microsoft have already announced these polices will extend through October. As employers perfect these practices, it will help them attract talent by letting employees work from nearly anywhere. Commutes may be a thing of the past for many knowledge workers and call-center employees, allowing them to live where they prefer.

I know my employer has been seeing some of the advantages of work-from-home. It may affect my employer’s search for a new engineering facility. (Most of our production, repair, sales work, and shipping/receiving has moved to another facility leaving our present facility vastly underutilized.) If we can reduce our needs regarding our brick-and-mortar facilities, we can use a much smaller building than originally envisioned yet maintain our same level of staffing.

There are times when I prefer to work from home. I get more work done because I don’t have the distractions. There are times when I prefer to work at the office because that’s where our labs are. It isn’t like I have a long commute...unless I hit red at all 4 traffic lights between home and work. Then my commute can be 5 minutes longer than it otherwise would be. It’s a sacrifice I don’t mind making.