The United States has always been a country on the move, where Americans can test the waters in other areas. This is known as "voting with your feet," to escape excessive taxes, excessive regulations, high crime or high cost of living.
The coronavirus pandemic has aggravated this situation, with Democratic-controlled jurisdictions tending to keep their cities and states locked down, while many Republican-controlled areas are easing restrictions.
That trend was reflected in the 2020 census. Axios reported that states that voted for Biden in 2020 lost three net House seats as a result of the head count.
United Van Lines has been keeping track of American migration trends for decades, and it’s no surprise that of the metropolitan areas residents are fleeing the most, nine are in either New York or New Jersey. Another five are in California.
Here are the top 10 metropolitan areas to which Americans are bidding sayonara.
No. 1: Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y.: United Van Lines reported that of the moves in this area, 81% involve people moving out, and 19% are those moving in.
This comes as no surprise to Long Island Weekly, which reported that young people are especially eager to leave, citing three factors:
- Expensive housing and high standard
- Low average income
- No prospect of improvement
Add COVID lockdowns to the mix and you have a recipe for flight.
Nos. 2, 3: Bergen-Passaic, N.J., and Trenton, N.J.: Just like the Long Island communities, United Van Lines reported that 81% of Bergen-Passaic moves involve people moving out, and 19% are those moving in.
Trenton fares only slightly better, with 76% of its residents leaving, and 24% calling the Garden States capital city their new home.
Even before the pandemic, New Jersey was the No. 1 state that people were escaping, with jobs being cited as the No. 1 reason for their move. They also listed property taxes and cost of living as being factors.
But the pandemic shifted the flood of escapees into overdrive, with Phil Murphy, its Democratic governor, imposing some of the stiffest lockdowns in the nation.
No. 4: New York City: The wealthiest of the Big Apple’s residents are fleeing in droves, not only because of the closed businesses and lockdowns imposed on residents, but also in response to the city’s rising crime rate.
New York City joined the throng of municipalities that answered the call to defund police after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
"We think defunding police is the right thing to do," said Mayor Bill de Blasio as the city diverted some $1 billion in police funds to other programs.
One of the casualties was the 600-officer plainclothes anti-crime unit. Since then murder rates in all five boroughs increased and the city saw a 130% jump in shootings in 2020 as compared to the previous year.
As of March 31, New York recorded 84 homicides, up 13% from 74 during the first three months of 2020.
No. 5: Newark, N.J.: A question posed in early February in Quora, a question and answer website, may say everything we need to know about the city: "Why is Newark, New Jersey such a dump?"
Newark has been struggling with a crime problem for decades. Add to that Murphy’s lockdowns and you have a perfect storm prompting flight.
Newark and New York City have the same ratios of people leaving to people entering — 72% to 28%.
No. 6: Chicago, Ill.: United Van Lines reported that the Windy City, along with the next three metropolitan service areas, experienced the same outbound to inbound traffic — 69% to 31%.
Rising crime rates in the city have become legendary. For the 3-month period from May through July last year, the city reported 1,130 shootings, 212 of them fatal.
"We’ve never seen anything like it at all," said Max Kapustin, Chicago Crime Lab senior research director. "I don’t even know how to put it into context. It’s beyond anything that we’ve ever seen before."
This month, in response to the Adam Toledo shooting at the close of a nighttime police chase, Chicago is considering requiring officers to get supervisory permission before chasing a suspect on foot, according to a local Fox report.
Add to that the high cost of living, traffic snarls, overcrowded public transit, and now the pandemic, more and more Chicagoans are seeking greener pastures.
No. 7: Bremerton, Wash.: Despite Bremerton being a destination for Seattleites seeking an escape from the Emerald City’s high cost of living and Antifa riots, Bremerton is still losing more than two residents for every one moving in.
On March 11, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced his latest round of restrictions that continue to prohibit social and in-home gatherings of any size, and restrict outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 10 people from no more than two households.
Other orders include retail businesses and worship services being limited to 25%, as well as a long list of other restrictions. And if residents believe they see an activity not in compliance, they’re encouraged to anonymously report them using a toll-free number.
Sometimes people just want freedom.
No. 8: Bridgeprt-Stamfrd-Norwlk, Conn.: Residents have been fleeing Connecticut’s major metropolitan areas for years. In 2o19 Connecticut came in at No. 3 for people leaving the state, behind New Jersey and Illinois.
At the time the reasons given for leaving were retirement, health, family, lifestyle and jobs. Today you can add COVID-19 restrictions.
On April 20, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced that he would lift all business restrictions as of May 19. But with other states having been open for months — including businesses, schools, individuals, the whole ball of wax — the grass looks greener on the other side.
That’s especially true when one considers that infection rates in open states are no worse — and in many cases even better — than those in locked down states.
No. 9: Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdn N.J.: This is the fourth New Jersey metro area to make the Top 10 List of residential flight. This is no surprise, given that the Garden State has consistently led the country in its citizens calling it quits.
Following renewal after renewal of lockdowns and mandates, on April 26 Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced a few minor relaxations of restrictions.
He told reporters that effective May 10, indoor venue capacities will be increased to 50% up to a maximum of 250 people for weddings, proms, funerals and music performances.
He added that the New Jersey Department of Education will issue additional guidelines for proms and graduation ceremonies.
No. 10: Lake (county), Ill.: Here’s another area caught up in a statewide exodus of its citizens — primarily by the state’s youth.
According to Pew Trust’s Matt Vasilogambros, it’s due to “a perfect storm of declining manufacturing, stagnant immigration, declining birth rates, young people leaving for college and never coming back, long-standing economic discrimination against black residents, high housing costs, and the continued draw of residents to the Sun Belt.”
As of March 2020, we can throw COVID-19 into that “perfect storm.”
Honorable mention: "The Californias" Although no California metro area made the list’s Top 10, five Golden State municipalities made the list of 25 worst.
Those metro areas include Oxnard-Ventura (16), Salinas-Seaside-Monterey (17), Vallejo-Fairfield-Napa (20), San Jose (21), and Riverside-San Bernardino (23).
Said United Van Lines, "Last year’s study revealed a migration trend showing many moves from California to Texas. Top reasons included lower taxes, more affordable housing and lower cost of living."
That was reflected by census numbers. California lost a House seat for the first time in its history; Texas picked up two new House seats.
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