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Is COVID-19 Really Causing Migration to Suburbs?

Reports that COVID-19 is causing a migration from urban centers to suburbs abound [1], but are those stories entirely accurate?

First American Chief Economist Mark Fleming recently revealed his insights regarding those rumors about pandemic-driven migration in America. Specifically, Fleming weighed in [2] on whether or not the COVID-19 pandemic has really driven an acceleration in residents moving from the cities to the suburbs in droves.  

According to recent media reports, the pandemic has sparked a mass migration from urban areas to the suburbs. While it is a fact that many Americans may indeed be feeling cramped in cities and wanting the increased space that the suburbs offers (especially for those who have now been relegated to working from home due to COVID-related safety measures), Fleming believes that this is not the sole catalyst for the shift toward the suburbs that we are currently experiencing.  

In fact, data shows that this shift has been happening for awhile, but has perhaps just been made more pronounced in light of the pandemic. Other factors that have led Americans to literally make a move has been lifestyle considerations that cause the suburbs to be far more attractive than cities, such as having a greater chance at being able to actually purchase a home in these lesser expensive areas. This is especially true among the millennial set. 

But FirstAm consulted their data to see if it in any way confirmed that the pandemic has possibly accelerated this trend. Fleming summarizes their findings: While our analysis may not yet confirm the widely discussed pandemic-driven sprint to the burbs, faint signals of a jog are picking up pace. 

While FirstAms study did not 100% prove that suburban housing markets have strengthened at a disproportionally faster rate when compared with urban markets directly as a result of the pandemic, the increasing house price appreciation in suburban zip codes does seem to reveal that demand is increasing (and is indeed higher than supply) in the suburbs. 

FirstAM aims to further delve into the nuances of this study and topic on its next episode of its podcast, REconomy.