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Metro Cost-of-Living Expenses Continue Upward Trend

Gravy Analytics has released The State of U.S. Population Movement Report, which analyzes how the nation's population has changed between Q1 2020 and Q1 2023. With emphasis on the top 10 counties that gained and lost the most in terms of population and explaining the trends seen across the 10 most populous states, the report found that consumers overwhelmingly moved to smaller markets with a lower average cost of housing.

Location intelligence insights from Gravy's report revealed consumers are making the most of their income by moving to counties that have a median house value of $279,000, which is an estimated 38% lower than the median house value of those counties that are losing population.

Key Findings:

  • What once was considered a vacation destination is now where consumers are calling home. Previously identified vacation spots such as Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, the many beaches of Brevard County, Florida, and Muskegon, Michigan, are seeing permanent residents that value the opportunities to explore and relax in a vacation destination year-round.
  • Consumers still enjoy the feel of a city, but on a smaller scale. While the larger metro areas are seeing population losses at a more significant rate, that doesn't mean consumers are ready to give up city living altogether, but rather are seeking the same atmosphere on a smaller (and more cost effective) scale. With plenty of shopping, dining and entertainment experiences, smaller cities like Greensboro, NCAugusta, GAScranton, PA, and El Paso, Texas, are seeing population growth.
  • As a result of this shift in population, local economies can expect to see a much-needed boost in business. As local businesses continue to bounce back from losses brought on by the pandemic, the resurgence of people to these smaller communities could be just the thing to reinvigorate local economies. Consumers working remotely are taking their substantial salaries from previous big city jobs, increasing median household incomes and bringing more spending to these areas.

While consumers chose counties with a lower home value, median household income was only 9% lower in these smaller counties compared to the bigger cities, suggesting that those people were able to take home a similar income in a smaller city where funds can be stretched further.

Cities with a lower cost of living outside of metro areas are growing in interest, especially among remote and hybrid workers who continue to trade city living for more space and a lower-cost lifestyle. As work-from-home and hybrid working arrangements have outlived pandemic protocols, consumers have been able to leave large cities for more affordable surrounding suburban areas and smaller cities that provide comparable conveniences at a lower cost.

Gravy's report revealed that residents in New York City overwhelmingly moved away from the metropolitan area in favor of places in western and central New York. At the other end of the state, where the median house value is just under $180K (less than one fifth of what it is in Manhattan), Erie County saw its population increase more than any other county.

California also saw residents leave trendy Los Angeles County for Riverside County, where the median house value is nearly 48% lower. This trend was seen throughout all 10 most populous U.S. states as consumers moved out of big cities like AtlantaChicagoDetroitMiami, and Charlotte, NC, in favor of smaller counties and cities in surrounding areas.

"There have been significant changes in the population distribution of the U.S. over the last three years beginning with the pandemic, and now due to increased cost of living and evolving work trends," said Jeff White, founder and CEO of Gravy Analytics. "Consumers are empowered now more than ever to adjust their living situation to match their desired lifestyle, making it a crucial time for organizations to capitalize on the new opportunities these markets present. With the insight provided by location intelligence, cities, retailers, and business owners can anticipate the needs of these consumers and plan their strategies accordingly."

To read the full report, including more data, charts, and methodology, click here.

About Author: Demetria Lester

Demetria C. Lester is a reporter for DS News and MReport magazines with more than eight years of writing experience. She has served as content coordinator and copy editor for the Los Angeles Daily News and the Orange County Register, in addition to 11 other Southern California publications. A former editor-in-chief at Northlake College and staff writer at her alma mater, the University of Texas at Arlington, she has covered events such as the Byron Nelson and Pac-12 Conferences, progressing into her freelance work with the Dallas Wings and D Magazine. Currently located in Dallas, Texas, Lester is an avid jazz lover and likes to read. She can be reached at [email protected].

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