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Here’s why Suffolk County houses far fewer young people after COVID

People aged 20 to 34 moved out of Suffolk County at a higher rate than the rest of the population.

Suffolk County is one of several large metro areas in the United States that experienced sharp population declines between 2020 and 2021, according to U.S. Census data.

We know now that young adults moving from Boston, Cambridge, and Newton to the suburbs were driving the change, the Census said in a news release.

Between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, Suffolk County’s population dropped 3% overall, according to census data. But among people aged 20 to 34, the decline was nearly double, dropping 5.7%.

A large portion of young people who lived in cities moved out of the city during the pandemic, according to U.S. Census data. – U.S. Census

Suffolk County was far from the only large metro area to experience this phenomenon, the Census said.

New York County, which houses New York City, had a population decline of 6.6% between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, according to census data. But among people aged 20 to 24, that decline was 13.6%.

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The Census said in the news release that based on other census data, we know these young adults were moving within the country, not out of it. They were choosing to move out of large metro areas to other, more rural or suburban counties.

The census said this was likely due to the pandemic enabling employees to work from home, which gave younger, working-age adults the flexibility to move from areas with lots of job opportunities to places with a lower cost of living or other quality of life benefits.

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Other research supports this hypothesis as well. Insider reported in November 2020 that research from an investment management firm found that 48% of millennials reported living in the suburbs in 2020 compared to 44% in 2019.

Among the Gen Z population, the change was even more pronounced, with 49% of Gen Z-ers reporting living in the suburbs in 2020, up from 41% in 2019.

Furthermore, home ownership increased greatly among older Gen Z-ers and young millennials, the research found, with 30% of 18- to 24-year-olds saying they owned their homes in 2020, compared to 19% in 2019.

Another survey from March 2021 reported by CNBC found that 31% of people aged 18 to 31 moved permanently or for an extended period of time during the pandemic, compared to 16% for adults overall.

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Among that age group, the survey found, 32% of peopled aged 18 to 24 said they relocated during the pandemic, while 26% of people aged 25 to 40 relocated.

Older adults were significantly less likely to have moved, with only 10% of people aged 41 to 56 and 5% of people aged 57 to 75 relocating during that time.

While the survey found that being closer to friends and family was the most common reason for moving, at 31%, more affordable living and having more space weren’t far behind, at 27% and 18% respectively.

Still, despite metro counties having drastic population declines among young people, those counties still have a larger proportion of people aged 20-34 than the U.S. as a whole.

Even after an exodus to the suburbs, cities still house a larger proportion of young people than the U.S. as a whole, according to U.S. Census data.

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