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.
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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.