San Jose and San Francisco among cities that saw sharpest pandemic population loss

By William H. Frey, Brookings, June 8, 2021

“[A new population analysis] sheds light on [the impact of Covid-19 on the nation’s largest cities] by examining the Census Bureau’s recently released estimates of annual city population changes for the 2010s decade through the year July 2019 to July 2020.

“[T]he growth advantage many cities sustained over their suburbs at the beginning of the [2010s] sharply narrowed or reversed even before the pandemic.

“Among the 10 largest cities, eight registered lower growth in 2019-20 than in 2018-19.” San Jose is among five of these largest cities that lost population.

“[Several cities with populations exceeding 250,000 showed] sharp negative growth in 2019-20, including Boston, San Francisco, St. Paul, Minn., New Orleans, and Newark, N.J. …

“While out-migration to other places accounted for a good part of recent population losses in these areas, lower immigration from abroad as well as fewer births and more deaths during the pandemic year also contributed.

“[I]t is not yet known if cities’ broad population growth slowdowns or declines shown with the new 2019-20 Census Bureau estimates are part of a new trend or, to some degree, temporary. Either way, it is important to place them in the context of a ‘shock’ to an ongoing system of selective population dispersion that was established several years before the pandemic began — one that new generations of young adult movers may or may not choose to follow.”

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