Suburban Areas Saw Pandemic Population Boom

By: - May 26, 2022 12:00 am

Tubers float the Comal River in June 2020 in New Braunfels, Texas, a San Antonio suburb that was one of the fastest growing cities in the country between mid-2020 and mid-2021. Eric Gay/The Associated Press

Smaller and suburban places drew most of the population growth in the first pandemic year, between mid-2020 and mid-2021, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released today.

The numbers confirm a trend predicted by a Stateline analysis earlier this year.

Suburban cities in the West and South saw explosive growth. Georgetown, Texas, about 25 miles from Austin, grew by more than 7,000 residents in a single year, a rate of 10.5% for the city of 75,000.

Its neighbor Leander grew almost as fast, increasing 10.1% or more than 6,000 people.

Also growing more than 5% in a single year: the Phoenix, Arizona, suburbs of Queen Creek, Buckeye, Casa Grande, Maricopa and Goodyear; the Texas city of New Braunfels near San Antonio; the Florida cities of Fort Myers, North Port City and Port St. Lucie; Tennessee’s Spring Hill City; and Idaho’s Meridian, Caldwell and Nampa.

More than half of the nation’s 15 largest cities lost population during that year as people fled high-density housing areas. That trend was led by New York City, which by dropped 305,000 people, followed by Chicago (-45,000), Los Angeles (-41,000) and San Jose, California (-27,000). The largest gainers among big cities were San Antonio, up almost 14,000, as well as Phoenix and Fort Worth (each up about 13,000).

A Stateline analysis of postal change-of-address data in March showed that many people moved away from high-density urban areas in the year after the pandemic began and into low-density areas, often nearby suburbs.

Bend, Oregon, a prime destination for pandemic movers, was one of the cities reaching more than 100,000 population for the first time. Others were Buckeye and Goodyear near Phoenix; Fishers and Carmel near Indianapolis; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.