Outbound San Francisco movers drove largest decrease in population of any other large city in the United States during the pandemic, new US Census data shows. Between April 2020 and July 2021, 6.7% of SF's population moved out, the Census found. That change accounts for over 54,000 people moving away from the City. [SPONSORED]
That loss is around double what other cities in the Bay Area experienced. Daly City, for instance, dropped in population by 3.2% and San Mateo lost 3% between July of 2020 and July of 2021.
Other major cities, like Washington, D.C. and Boston, both lost about 2.9% of the people living there.
The only comparable population loss to San Francisco during that year happened in Manhattan. SFGate reports that borough had 6.6% fewer people in 2021 than it did in 2019. However, when you look at the entire city of New York, the metropolitan area stayed on par with the rest of the Bay, with a population decrease of 3.5% for the city.
Of course, those people all have to be moving somewhere, and some have likely moved back to their original spots. But Arizona, Texas, Florida, and Idaho all had cities with significant population growth between 2020 and 2021. Georgetown, Texas, for instance grew by 10.5% during that same one-year period, and Leander, Texas grew by 10.1%. Five of the 15 fastest-growing cities were all in Arizona: Queen Creek Town, Buckeye, Casa Grande, Maricopa, and Goodyear all grew by between 6 and 9%.
Looking at the largest numbers of people moving, rather than the percentage of population, the West and South still reigned supreme. San Antonio now has over 13,600 more people than it did in 2019, and Phoenix, Arizona has over 13,200 more. Fort Worth Texas is only slightly behind with 12,900 extra people.
So what’s driving people out of some cities and towards others? There are a number of factors. The tech industry, which the Bay Area has long dominated, has been investing more heavily in offices elsewhere, like in Texas. Still, the “tech exodus” isn’t what it’s been made out to be and that alone isn’t enough to explain the population decrease in San Francisco.
The cost of living and shift to remote work play another major role. If people can work remotely, they’d rather pay lower rents and mortgages in other cities than live in town to be close to an office they no longer have to visit. As SFist reported in April, San Francisco leads the nation in workers who have been avoiding a return to the office. Even some who have to occasionally come to work in-person would prefer to commute occasionally than live in the city.
That trend, combined with a record-low population growth in California that the Department of Finance has been tracking, could explain the population decline. The bigger question now is whether the population will ramp back up once a gradual return to work picks up speed.