Survey: Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, Urbanites Are Eyeing the Suburbs


By: Katelyn Newman | U.S. News

A recent survey by the Harris Poll suggests city dwellers are increasingly daydreaming about the suburbs.

INCREASED TIME INSIDE close quarters during the coronavirus pandemic is causing some urbanites to consider moving toward the suburbs, a recent survey shows.

Researchers at the Harris Poll – a firm of social scientists and strategists – conducted an online survey of 2,050 U.S. adults nationwide from April 25 to 27 that asked, among other coronavirus-related questions, whether they would consider moving to less-populated areas once the pandemic ended.

Nearly 40% of U.S. adults living in urban areas indicated they would consider moving “out of populated areas and toward rural areas,” compared to 29% of overall respondents. And 43% of urbanites – a significantly higher percentage than of suburban (26%) and rural (21%) residents – said they’d recently browsed real estate websites such as Zillow, Redfin and for homes or apartments to rent or buy.

“Space now means something more than square feet,” Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema said, according to Axios. “Already beset by high rents and clogged streets, the virus is now forcing urbanites to consider social distancing as a lifestyle.”

Adults between the ages of 18 and 34 as well as those 35 to 49 indicated a higher likelihood of shifting to the suburbs or rural areas than older age groups, with 40% and 35% saying they were at least somewhat likely to consider the move, respectively.

As ripe breeding grounds for the spread of coronavirus, dense cities now have a new challenge in keeping their residents, many of whom had already begun to find rapidly rising rents and job market changes less appealing, the New York Times reports. A recent analysis of Census Bureau data by William Frey of the Brookings Institution found that cities with populations exceeding 1 million residents have seen growth slowdowns and even losses over the past four years.

“People will be much more cautious about living in high-density areas with so many people nearby,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, told USA Today.

But, whether they’ve thought about it or not, it’s too early to tell whether urbanites will actually make the move. Urban flight is often only an option for wealthier households, according to business media brand Fast Company. Meanwhile, Axios reports that people are less likely to pack up during an economic recession, and some experts told Foreign Policy that job opportunities, higher wages and improvements to health care infrastructure will continue to attract residents to urban centers.

“(U)rbanization has always been a greater force than infectious disease,” Richard Florida, a professor at the University of Toronto and a co-founder of CityLab, told Foreign Policy.

Robert Muggah, founder of the Igarapé Institute, a Brazil-based think tank, also weighed in with a bit of optimism.

“The pandemic is exposing the quality of governance and scale of inequalities in our global cities,” he wrote for Foreign Policy. “It is also providing an opportunity for urban planners and entrepreneurs to build back better.”

Read the full article at U.S. News.