Pandemic Cost NYC Nearly 475,000 Residents, Citing Decline in Quality of Life

Pandemic Cost NYC Nearly 475,000 Residents, Citing Decline in Quality of Life
A person wearing a mask rides the subway during rush hour on the first day of phase one of the reopening after the coronavirus lockdown in New York City on June 8, 2020. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)
Bryan Jung

New York City, like many other major U.S. cities, has been losing residents since 2020, much of it having to do with rising crime, remote work, and strains of lockdown restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the wave of losses facing the city has slowed since 2022, the country's largest metropolitan area has still seen nearly half a million people emigrate.

The majority of those former New Yorkers left for the Southern states, as they looked for a better quality of life.

Between April 2020 and July 2022, New York's estimated population dropped from 8.80 million to 8.34 million, for a loss of roughly 468,000 residents or nearly 5.3 percent of the city’s total population.

The majority of the losses were between 2020 and 2021 at the height of the pandemic, with lockdowns, virus fears, and a shift from office to remote work propelling people to leave.

The streets of New York resembled a ghost town in those years, as its once booming hospitality industry, arts, and entertainment venues shut down on government orders.

Quality of life issues have now become the biggest concern facing New Yorkers, as a resurgence of homelessness, violent crimes, and a flood of illegal migrants overwhelm public services.

Wealthy Taxpayers Flee South

The flight of thousands of young professionals and wealthy taxpayers to more hospitable climes during the pandemic have cost liberal states like New York a massive loss in tax revenue.
Both New York and California lost a combined $92 billion in tax income due to outmigration, according to Bankrate.

Capital flight became such a problem for New York State during the lockdowns that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo even appeared on TV to beg high end taxpayers to return.

Approximately 41,000 filers in NYC’s top 1 percent paid more than 40 percent of all income taxes, according to the New York City Independent Budget Office, while 450,000 filers in the top 10 percent paid about two-thirds of all income taxes.

Adjacent cities in New Jersey like Bayonne, Union City, and Hoboken, which housed many of the young professionals who worked in the Big Apple, joined their neighbor as some of the top 10 places that lost the most people during from 2020-2021.

At the same time, San Francisco lost 7.5 percent of its residents between 2020 and 2022—far more than of than other cities which saw departures, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

The city has faced a wave of chaos since the end of the pandemic, as homelessness, public drug use, violent crime, and theft spun out of control due to progressive government policies.

This, combined with recent mass layoffs at tech companies, a preference for remote work, and a surge of local companies moving to Texas, have all taken a toll on the Bay Area.

Worst Population Drain in Decades

Cities in Arizona, Texas, and Florida have benefited from West Coast, Northeastern, and Midwestern taxpayers migrating out of their home states, according to Census data.

Blue states like New York, California, and Illinois continue to lose population to red states like Florida and Texas, which may lead to erosion of the tax base and political power of the Democrat-run states.

For example, Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported more than 126,000 former New York residents changing their drivers license registration to the Sunshine State.

However, their are some fears by conservatives that the flight from more progressive states may turn their red states purple.

Meanwhile, as companies forced workers back into the office as the pandemic began to subside, rent prices rose in cities, followed by a gradual uptick in residents.

As early as the year ending July 2021, Manhattan began to add more than 17,000 residents as landlords briefly dropped rents to attract new tenants. But since the end of lockdowns, median rent in New York City has risen 15 percent year-over-year and is now at an all-time high.

New York still remains the most populous city in the country with more than 8.3 million people, which is far more than Los Angeles, with just 3.8 million people, according to Census data.

Bryan S. Jung is a native and resident of New York City with a background in politics and the legal industry. He graduated from Binghamton University.
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