Why More Americans Are Leaving Cities for Suburban Areas

Some factors that have contributed to Americans leaving cities for suburban areas are the adoption of remote work by companies, availability of less expensive housing in rural and suburban areas, increase in urban crime rates amid the pandemic.

1. Increase In Real Estate Demands In Suburban Areas

  • Based on data from Realtor.com’s Market Hotness rankings, views per property in suburban zip codes grew by 13%, almost doubling the pace of growth compared to urban areas in May.
  • There has also been an increase in rents in suburban areas like Oakland, Sacramento, and Newark representing a 4%, 7%, and 15% increase in rents respectively as people are flocking more to the areas.
  • According to a survey by Harris Poll, it was found that almost one-third of Americans are considering moving to a less densely populated area because of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • According to a survey of 2,050 U.S. adults, 39% of urban inhabitants said they consider relocating to less crowded places because of COVID-19.
  • Suburban zip codes saw a median increase of 404 spots in May, out of 20,000 zip codes, while rural zips saw a median leap of 846 spots according to Market Holmes.
  • According to data from Caliber Home Loans, there was a 13% rise in the number of house searches in suburban ZIP codes in May.
  • Data shows that over 16,000 New York residents have already relocated to suburban Connecticut and the area is also losing residents to rural New England and Florida in significant numbers which are similar to trends in other large urban areas in the United States.
  • In San Francisco, the prices of real estates have fallen by 50% and there has been increasing demands for its suburbs.

2. Decrease In Urban Home Sales

  • About 47% of home buyers prefer to purchase their homes in suburbs, 39% in rural areas, 25% in small towns due to the COVID-19 pandemic according to a survey by real estate agents.
  • In New York, while the overall house sales fell by 30% in April, there was an increase in real estate demands in suburbs like Ulster County which saw the number of homes under contract nearly doubles the 2016 figures.
  • Real estate sales in Montana, rural Colorado, Oregon, and Maine has increased by 10% compared to the same period in 2019.
  • The number of home sales for suburban counties outside of New York City increased by 44% in July according to data by Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants. There was a “112% increase in home sales in Westchester County; a 73% increase in home sales in Fairfield County, Connecticut; a 35% increase in home sales in Putnam County; and a 19% increase in Dutchess County.”

3. Increase In Online Suburban/Rural Real Estate Searches

  • Over 40% of urban inhabitants have browsed online for real estate properties in suburban areas. According to Redfin, over a “quarter of searches on its website are by urbanites in Seattle, San Francisco, and the District of Columbia searching for homes across less populated places.”
  • 43% of urban inhabitants reported having recently browsed real estate websites for homes or apartments to rent or buy in suburban or rural areas according to Harris Poll Survey.
  • According to an economist at Zillow, due to the pandemic, there has been an upsurge of home buyers looking for houses at suburban areas. It represents 64% of searches for properties in rural and urban areas.
  • People have been using platforms and technologies like Facebook Live, 3D Home tours to virtually tour new homes in suburbs. According to Zillow, in March, home listings with 3D Home tours received about 50% more site visitors than listings without 3D Home tours.

4. Increase In Mortgage Applications

  • Suburbs in the metro areas of Houston, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago and Washington D.C. have experienced a rise in mortgage applications. For suburbs in Chicago and Washington D.C., the mortgage applications have risen by 40% compared to pre-pandemic averages.
  • According to the American Enterprise Institute’s Housing Market Nowcast, between May 18 and June 15, home purchase mortgage rate locks in non-urban areas increased by 36% YoY.
  • “The least-dense ZIP codes grew at almost twice the rate of the densest ones, with major metros like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., experiencing the same pattern of home buyers moving to areas within the city that have fewer people.”

Factors Driving The Trends

  • One of the factors that have contributed to Americans leaving cities for suburban areas is the adoption of remote work by companies. In the Bay Areas, tech companies like Facebook are more inclined to embrace remote work leading many employees to leave the area.
  • Another factor contributing to the trend is the availability of less expensive housing in rural and suburban areas.
  • Social unrest and an increase in urban crime rate are also one of the drivers of people leaving urban areas during the pandemic.
  • Increased fear of living in densely populated cities amid the pandemic is also a contributing factor as residents try to avoid contacting the virus.
  • The availability of online banking and investing services regardless of location is also one of the factors encouraging migration to suburbs as it provides people with the convenience of banking or contacting an investment broker to make a stock trade without being physically present.


Millennials constitute the majority of Americans who are moving from urban centers to the suburbs or more rural areas because of coronavirus. Reports also states that millennials are the largest buyers of homes in suburbs following COVID-19.


  • 20% of American millennials are White, 27% are Asian, 24% are black, 27% are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 24% are American Indian or Alaska Native and, 25% are Hispanic.
  • About 22% are two or more races.


  • 39% or four-in-ten millennials in the United States between the ages of 25 to 37 have at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • 28% to 25% have a high school diploma, and 8% have less than a high school diploma.


  • 72% of millennial women are employed, 3% are unemployed and 25% are not in labor force.
  • 83% of millennial men are employed, 4% are unemployed and 12% are not in labor force.

Income Level

  • Millennials with at least a bachelor’s degree and a full-time job earned an average of $56,000 annually.
  • The average household income for millennials with a bachelor’s degree or higher is $105,343 compared to $62,358 and $49,363 for those with some college diplomas and high school diploma respectively.

Marital Status/Family

  • 46% of millennials between the ages of 25 to 37 years are married. Four-in-ten millennials with just a high school diploma are currently married, while 53% of millennials with at least a bachelor’s degree are married.
  • More than 17 million millennial women are mothers.

Research Strategy

According to reports by CNBC, HomeOwnershipMatters, TrendHunter, Pew Research, Harris Poll Survey, millennials in the United States are the leading group relocating from urban to suburbs or rural areas amid COVID-19 due to reasons like furlough in work places, rents, and closure of schools, among others. Based on our findings, we used the data provided from Pew Research and other sources to provide a demographic profile of people who are moving from urban to rural places (millennials). Also, there’s a recent study by Pew Research on the demographic profiles of Americans who relocated or are relocating to other areas because of the coronavirus.

Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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