tubers new braunfels texas suburban population growth pandemic

Tubers float the Comal River in June 2020 in New Braunfels, Texas, a San Antonio suburb that was one of the fastest growing cities in the country between mid-2020 and mid-2021. (Eric Gay/The Associated Press)

Suburban Areas Saw Pandemic Population Boom

By Tim Henderson, Stateline | June 2, 2022 | State Legislatures News | Print

Smaller and suburban places drew most of the population growth in the first pandemic year, between mid-2020 and mid-2021, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The numbers confirm a trend predicted by a Stateline analysis earlier this year.

Suburban cities in the West and South saw explosive growth. Georgetown, Texas, about 25 miles from Austin, grew by more than 7,000 residents in a single year, a rate of 10.5% for the city of 75,000.

Suburban cities in the West and South saw explosive growth.

Its neighbor Leander grew almost as fast, increasing 10.1% or more than 6,000 people.

Also growing more than 5% in a single year: the Phoenix, Arizona, suburbs of Queen Creek, Buckeye, Casa Grande, Maricopa and Goodyear; the Texas city of New Braunfels near San Antonio; the Florida cities of Fort Myers, North Port City and Port St. Lucie; Tennessee’s Spring Hill City; and Idaho’s Meridian, Caldwell and Nampa.

More than half of the nation’s 15 largest cities lost population during that year as people fled high-density housing areas. That trend was led by New York City, which by dropped 305,000 people, followed by Chicago (-45,000), Los Angeles (-41,000) and San Jose, California (-27,000). The largest gainers among big cities were San Antonio, up almost 14,000, as well as Phoenix and Fort Worth (each up about 13,000).

A Stateline analysis of postal change-of-address data in March showed that many people moved away from high-density urban areas in the year after the pandemic began and into low-density areas, often nearby suburbs.

Bend, Oregon, a prime destination for pandemic movers, was one of the cities reaching more than 100,000 population for the first time. Others were Buckeye and Goodyear near Phoenix; Fishers and Carmel near Indianapolis; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

This story was first published by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, on May 26, 2022.

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