By Jeff Andrews | Curbed
You’ve heard the story before: After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, city dwellers fled urban centers in droves, hoping to escape the rapid spread of the virus. Now, unshackled from cities by work-from-home policies, these urban ex-pats are causing a housing market boom in suburban and rural areas.
It’s a narrative that has, since mid-March, proliferated through practically every major media outlet in the country. These new versions of “Why I Left New York” stories have helped paint a picture of a city significantly changed by people decamping to the suburbs. The only problem is that supporting evidence for this urban exodus narrative is, at best, flimsy and, at worst, nonexistent.
Many of these stories include individual accounts of people fleeing urban centers like New York City for suburban and rural areas — and there are, undoubtedly, people who have left. But to validate the urban exodus narrative as a large-scale trend, stories have often pointed to search traffic data provided by real estate portals like Zillow and realtor.com. The search data allegedly reflect that people in New York City and other urban centers are searching for housing in the suburbs.