Urban Exodus: Americans Fleeing Coastal Cities in Droves


There’s an ongoing massive exodus from big coastal cities like Los Angeles and San Fran to smaller urban and suburban areas in the Southeast, Southwest, and Midwest. Every year, thousands of Americans are fleeing expensive, coastal area cities to move into the New Heartland’s suburbs and more affordable towns and cities.

Many of the big cities on both US coasts hemorrhage hundreds of residents every day as the pandemic has apparently accelerated the exodus, which is expected to get much worse this decade.

Where Are Americans Moving To?

More and more Americans in large, high-tax urban areas now have a common dream: Sell all of their assets or use their life savings to move someplace else or at least buy a second home in a better place.

The most enticing destinations of new migrants include:

  • Nashville, TN
  • Tampa, FL
  • Austin, TX
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Denver, CO
  • Boise, ID.

Towns and the suburbs are also favorite destinations. In most of these urban areas, the cost of living is up to 200% lower than in large coastal cities like San Francisco. In towns and suburbs, that number jumps to 400%, so no wonder so many city dwellers decide to move home after their livelihoods have been severely hit by the current public health crisis.

Also, many of the city dwellers who decide to move are renters who have been priced out in coastal cities and decided to move someplace less expensive. Some of them (around 4.5%) have enough savings to even buy a new home in the small town or city of their choice, even though in many of the mentioned cities, housing prices have skyrocketed since the exodus gained steam in 2017.

Why Are Americans Leaving the Coasts

The first reason city dwellers decide to leave coastal cities for other cities or suburbs is the high cost of living for middle-class urbanites that prevents them from starting a family. Coastal cities also have a growing housing shortage problem which has led to artificially inflated housing prices. For instance, housing prices in LA have soared 75% since the Great Recession. What is more, the cost of a home is 432% higher in San Francisco than in Atlanta, GA.

Another reason Americans are fleeing coastal cities is those cities’ liberal policies. In some liberal strongholds like California, lawmakers are seemingly doing everything in their power to chase middle-income families away through their policies. For instance, many jurisdictions now have a cap on state and local deductions, which has badly impacted the upper-middle class.

Also, excessive regulations like this ban on gas stoves in new homes and restaurants in the Bay Area have put a damper on the local economy in an already suffocating business environment for small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs due to the harsh COVID restrictions in the Golden State.

A third reason Americans are leaving coastal cities for the South and the Midwest is telecommuting. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it easier for people to work from home, and that home can be (re)located just about anywhere. In 2020, the number of telecommuting Americans jumped to 21% with “minimal loss in worker productivity” because people saved commute time.

Other reasons for relocating include restaurants and entertainment venues being shut down in most coastal cities due to the new restrictions, fears of coronavirus infection in high-density urban areas, and a decrease in coastal cities’ appeal due to increased homelessness and violent protests as police departments are getting defunded.

New Challenges

The urban exodus comes with many new challenges for the communities that will welcome coastal workers. One of the challenges is properly accommodating the newcomers. Many of the cities in the New Heartland also face housing shortages, and their road infrastructures might not be sturdy enough for the increased traffic influx.

For instance, Atlanta is expecting millions of new residents over the next few decades, but the affordable housing shortage can now deter many newcomers from setting base in the city.  Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has recently announced several zoning reforms to fix the housing crisis that would cost the municipality $50 million.

And with 700,000 new residents added before the pandemic, the road infrastructure will need a major overhaul as well. But that would take several years and many more millions to get it done. Meanwhile, local residents and newcomers alike will have to pay extra attention to the roads, put up with traffic congestions as they can, and keep the contact info of an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer nearby for when the inevitable happens.

About the Author

Cheryl Roy

Cheryl Roy has built a successful legal career over the years. However, she wanted to reach out to people beyond her practice and decided to do so by writing. Cheryl took it as a personal mission to make legal information more accessible to the public. Therefore, she started sharing her expertise with individuals and businesses facing a legal dilemma. Now she has branched out to many online and offline platforms and works as a collaborative editor for Bader Scott Injury Lawyers.

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