Oct 31, 2020 - Economy

Americans are moving out of dense, costly cities

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new survey indicates as many as 23 million Americans — more than 10% of the adult population — are planning to move as a result of remote work, mostly to cheaper and less dense places.

Why it matters: The sudden shift to remote work has freed up many Americans from having to live in or near the costly urban centers where job growth had been concentrated. But businesses and major cities will struggle to adjust to the changes.

By the numbers: According to the survey of more than 20,000 Americans by the freelancing platform Upwork, near-term migration levels may be three-to-four times higher than the normal level.

  • 54.7% of people are moving two hours or more from where they currently live, which puts them out of daily or even weekly commuting range — indicating that many likely aren't planning on commuting at all in the future.

What they're saying: "Expensive, central cities will suffer from this exodus," says Adam Ozimek, Upwork's chief economist and the author of the report.Context: In general, carbon footprints increase as people move from dense cities to suburbs or rural areas, where dwellings are larger and driving is more necessary.

  • However, if most of those moving are working from home rather than commuting, that could offset any increases, and may even have a positive impact, says Ozimek.
  • While a number of firms have talked about a hybrid working system going forward, the fact that so many employees are planning to move hours away from their current workplace "suggests that many people desire a fully remote work style," says Ozimek.

The bottom line: Given the opportunity of remote work, Americans are showing they want to move to cheaper, larger housing.

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