How People are Moving (2)

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How People are Moving (2)

Key Takeaways

  • As a result of the pandemic resulting in increased ability to work remotely, 14 to 23 million Americans are projected to move, with many moving from highly populated urban areas to less populated small cities and rural areas.
  • Lack of proper infrastructure and high speed internet for remote work is discouraging migration to some rural areas, with an estimated "20 million people in rural America without broadband".
  • Prior to the pandemic, rural economies were already seeing a boom in population growth, as those living in cities moved to find a slower pace of life.
  • Introduction

Below we've provided insights into the current demographic composition in rural vs. urban populations in the US based on the most recent urban/rural migration trends. This includes information on how there has been an exodus of tech workers moving to rural areas following the pandemic, as well as how motivating factors including internet access and rural access to modern amenities have informed migration trends, especially amongst young professionals and millennials looking to start families.

The Great Tech Migration

  • One source refers to the "widespread exodus of tech workers from urban areas to the small towns" as the Great Tech Migration.
  • As a result of the pandemic resulting in increased ability to work remotely, 14 to 23 million Americans are projected to move, with most moving from highly populated urban areas to less populated cities and rural areas.
  • Specifically less populated areas in 'the American Heartland' are trending for younger, tech-savvy populations, who are moving from traditional tech hubs such as San Fransisco to areas with a lower cost of living and emerging tech scenes.
  • However, remote rural areas are still growing mostly in relation to the existence of nearby small cities with modern amenities and professional hubs.
  • Rural areas near small cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma that have invested in attracting young entrepenuers and are promoting tech industry infrastructure are also seeing higher rates of migration related to the Great Tech Migration.

Internet Access in Rural Areas Impacts Migration of Young Profressionals

  • Lack of proper infrastructure and high speed internet is still discouraging migration to more remote rural areas especially amongst millennial adults.
  • The most recent data from the FCC estimates there are still "20 million people in rural America without broadband".
  • It's also noted that high-speed internet access has become a challenge in many rural areas during the pandemic as more people attempted to navigate remote work for the first time, which may lead to increased funding for infrastructure.
  • While lack of adequate internet access currently discourages rural migration related to telecommuting to some areas, the US federal government has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to expand rural broadband, which may prompt new migration patterns.
  • Within remote rural regions, counties with better digital access have higher migration rates of millennials.
  • Rural communities with the highest levels of digital divide on the other hand were least likely to attract or retain millennial populations.
  • However, data also suggested that once a rural area adopts broadband, young professionals can be successfully attracted.

Other Factors Influencing Migration of Young, Tech-Savvy Populations

  • It's noted that prior to the pandemic, rural economies were already 'seeing a boom' in population growth as those living in cities moved to find a slower pace of life, and remote job accessibility increased that trend.
  • Rural areas that educated millennials are most likely to migrate to include amenities mirroring those they enjoyed in urban areas, including cultural attractions, coffee shops, and nice restaurants.
  • Specifically, it's note that as millennials enter their 30s and 40s, they want to live in a rural or suburban area to mirror the lifestyles their parents had, but blended with the modern experiences of an urban area.
  • Cost of living and natural landscape are two key motivating factors for migration to rural areas, with one source noting that "when people don’t move to more affordable areas, they choose to move to a home near the ocean or with a nice mountain view".
  • For families, rural areas also offer "more affordable space, backyards, and access to better schools", with more families choosing to prioritize spacious homes after the pandemic.
  • Access to outdoor amenities has also increased in importance and encouraged the shift to rural living.
  • It's also more common for those migrating from urban areas post-pandemic to select a location that is accessible to popular cities and an international airport.

Research Strategy

For this research on the most recent urban/rural migration trends in the US, we leveraged the most reputable sources of information that were available in the public domain, including reputable news outlets, government demographic surveys, Pew Research statistics, and other relevant media sources.


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