Parents with Children Left Major US Cities in Droves During the Pandemic


July 29, 2022

A new report by the Economic Innovation Group found that cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Santa Clara saw the biggest declines in not only their under-five population, but also their under-18 population.


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  • A new report by the Economic Innovation Group  found that overall, large urban counties lost 5.4 percent of their under-five population 
  • Large metropolitan counties also saw a population drop of 3.7 percent 
  • New York City, Santa Clara, Los Angeles and Chicago and saw the biggest losses in not only their under-five population, but also in their under-18 population 
  • The researches attributed the decline to high cost of living in the cities and warned that urban areas could loss school funding if the trend continues 


Families with children under five left major cities in droves during the height of COVID, with 68 percent of large urban counties seeing a population dip. 

A new report by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) found that large metropolitan counties saw their under-five population dropping by 5.4 percent, with the total population drop of 3.7 percent.

Among the areas that saw the biggest losses were New York CityLos AngelesChicago and Santa Clara, with the study noting that a lack of affordable homes was one of the key factors in the decline. 

Connor O'Brien, one of the lead authors of the study, said he was surprised over the findings and just how quickly people have moved on from large cities. 

'What shocked me really was the sheer rate of change,' O'Brien told Fortune.

'To see a city lose 5 percent  or 10 percent of its young kids over the course of a year or two, I don't think anyone imagined that was really possible before the pandemic. 

'That really stood out to us as 'Woah the fates of cities could change much faster than we thought before.'


A new report by the Economic Innovation Group found that overall, large urban counties lost 5.4 percent of their under-five population

New York City, Santa Clara, Los Angeles and Chicago and saw the biggest losses in not only their under-five population, but also in their under-18


According to the data, Manhattan saw the largest decline in children under five at a loss of 9.5 percent.  Brooklyn and Queens followed at a loss of  6.8 and 6.7 percent, respectively. 

Over on the West Coast, Santa Clara County led the pack with a loss of 6.2 percent, with Los Angeles following behind at 5.6 percent. 

Cook County, which houses Chicago, saw its under-five population drop by 5.3 percent, and Miami-Dade saw 4.2 percent leave. 

Although researchers acknowledged that low-birth rates and a drop in immigration played a hand in the decline, the steady drops are in line with the decline in residents under 18. 

'The pandemic era sparked a sharp acceleration of these losses, with the rate of decline of children living in large cities exceeding that of the country as a whole and all other county types by a wide margin,' the researchers wrote. 

The study also matches another paper published by the EIG in March, which found that large urban counties not long make the vast majority areas seeing the most population growth. 

The study found that while large cities made up 14 of the 15 counties seeing the biggest growth in 2011,  they only represented three of 15 in 2021, with suburbs, small cities and city outskirts making up the rest. 

Among the most popular suburban counties people moved to were Collin County Texas, Riverside County, California, and Fort Bend County Texas.  



The average rental price in Manhattan hit an all-time-high of $5,058 last month, with median rent, the mid-point value of the total price sample, also breaking records at $4,050-a-month

Experts say that the rising costs are linked to the continued increase of inflation in the U.S., which rose to 9.1 percent in June, the highest in 41 years


Most New York City landlords follow a standard that a renters' annual income needs to be at least 40 times the monthly rent, meaning those looking for apartments in Manhattan are now expected to earn more than $200,000 a year to be considered.

According to Zillow, the average rent in Los Angeles is $3,190, up 15 percent from last year and the average home cost more than $1 million. In Santa Clara, the average home costs $ 1.7 million. 

The EIG researchers said that their findings are consistent with the drop in Kindergarten and Pre-K enrollment nationwide. 

The 2020-2021 school year was the first time in two decades where the eligible children in Pre-K programs declined, The National Institute for Early Education Research found. 

EIG researchers noted: 'Despite New York City extending its public preschool program to three year-olds during the pandemic which padded overall numbers, its existing pre-K program for four-year-olds saw an enrollment decline of roughly 13,000 students.

'Chicago's public preschools saw an initial enrollment decline of over 30 percent in 2020, a decline that has only partially ebbed—in the 2021-22 school year, enrollment still remained 12 percent below 2019 levels.' 

O'Brien warned that the decline in toddlers could cost large urban counties big in terms of tax dollars and possible school closures. 

'Long term if you see a continuing outflow of families from cities, that undermines their tax base and school funding,' O'Brien told Forbes. 'You're maybe looking at having to close schools, having to cut offerings, all sorts of things, because it's happening so fast that districts aren't able to adjust their capital investments at the same pace.' 

He added that cities needed to act now in to make themselves more appealing to families and stave off the population decline. 

'Cities have to ask themselves how they remain hospitable to families, and particularly families with young kids,' he said. 'And it's something I don't think any places have paid attention to.'

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