The New York Times reported that 2021 was the slowest year of growth in U.S. history.

Two main factors included COVID-19 mortality rates and migration within the country, both of which were a result of the many ways the pandemic has changed the country’s population.

Migration out of large cities: “The pandemic intensified population trends of migration to the South and West, as well a slowdown in growth in the biggest cities in the U.S,” reported The Associated Press.

Between 2020 and 2021:

  • The Los Angeles metro area lost 176,000 residents.
  • San Francisco saw a decrease of 116,000 residents.
  • Chicago lost 91,000 people.
  • San Jose, Boston, Miami and Washington, D.C., all lost tens of thousands of residents, according to AP News.
  • “The exodus from the biggest U.S. metropolitan areas was led by New York, which lost almost 328,000 residents,” reported ABC Los Angeles.

Growth in smaller cities: On the other end, The Associated Press reported that some smaller U.S. cities saw growth in 2021.

  • Phoenix increased by 78,000, and Houston saw an addition of 69,000 people.
  • Small areas like Kalispell, Montana; Jefferson, Georgia; and Bozeman, Montana experienced growth as well.
  • Business Insider shared a map that details the population changes within each county, based on U.S. Census data.
  • This map shows growth within Western states such as Utah and Idaho, but an increase in population on the East and West coasts.
‘The secret’s out’: Utah is seeing ‘remarkable’ population growth. Here’s how much is because of migration
The fastest growing states in the U.S. are all out West

Why are people leaving big cities? There are a number of reasons why people are leaving.

  • “In Houston, I can be a blue-collar entrepreneur. With the Houston housing market, it made sense to come here,” said Anthony Giusti, a former San Francisco resident, to The Associated Press.
  • In San Francisco, the high cost of living ensured that even with two jobs, Giusti would never be able to afford a house in the area. He moved to Houston where he is now able to comfortably support himself.
  • “The price of living in the Bay Area was so out of sync with the quality of life we were getting,” said Alison Grady to The New York Times.
  • According to a 2021 Los Angeles Housing report, half a million low-income renters do not have access to affordable housing in the Los Angeles area.
  • The report also stated that residents of LA would need to earn $38.23 per hour to afford the average monthly rent of $1,988 in the area.

Shrinking population: “Only 828 counties had more births than deaths in 2021, the figures show, down from more than 1,900 a year ago,” reported The New York Times.

  • Half of the states in the U.S. saw more deaths than births in 2021, this phenomenon is known as “natural decrease,” according to Axios.
  • “In 2021, fewer births, an aging population and increased mortality — intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic — contributed to a rise in natural disease,” said the U.S. Census Bureau, according to Reuters.