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Are American cities in decline? According to new census data, the nation’s largest metropolitan areas—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Boston, Seattle, and a few others—lost a combined 900,000 residents in 2021. “The rise of remote work has snipped the tether between home and office, allowing many white-collar workers to move out of high-cost cities,” Derek Thompson writes in his latest newsletter.
Why, then, are rents at or near all-time highs? “[One possibility is that] America’s densest cities are becoming playgrounds for the rich and mostly childless. In 2001, L.A. County recorded 153,000 live births. In 2021, it recorded fewer than 100,000 births. Perhaps middle-class workers and families with young kids used the pandemic as an opportunity to accelerate their move to the suburbs or cheaper towns.
As poorer and younger families left, richer and older people stayed, and some affluent young people moved in. In this scenario, some cities might have gotten richer even as they got smaller, pushing up rents and home prices.”