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Americans done with city life after Covid, poll finds

Fewer than 1 in 5 Americans want to live in the city — and the Covid pandemic gets the blame for the shift in attitudes.

(CN) — Nearly two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, more Americans want to live in the suburbs than before according to a 36-page study published Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

Researchers also found urban dwellers are more concerned about the economic and health impacts of the pandemic than other demographics.

“The Covid-19 pandemic may not have drastically changed people’s preferences for where and how they want to live, but there’s no questioning that it had a profound impact on American life at both the community and individual level,” researchers observed in the study.

The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan thinktank, surveyed 9,676 adults mid-October 2021 to measure what they thought about where they live and how Covid-19 had changed that. The data included 2,172 urban, 5,157 suburban, and 2,299 rural Americans.

While 23% of people polled preferred city life in 2018, that number declined to 19% in 2021. At the same time, 46% of people recently reported preferring the suburbs, a 4% rise from the previous survey.

In 2021, 43% of city dwellers said they wanted to move, compared with 37% in 2018. Conversely 40% of suburbanites and 50% of rural folk said they didn’t want to move in 2021, compared with 36% of suburbanites and 43% of rural folk who said they were staying put in 2018.

Pew additionally found only 8% of Americans moved in 2020, the lowest since the U.S. Census started keeping track in the 1950s.

“We looked at some of the major issues that people are seeing in their communities by urban, suburban and rural areas, and urban residents are more likely to see major problems in their area, certainly with the economic and health impacts of the pandemic,” explained Rachel Minkin, a Pew research associate at Pew who worked on the study.

Forty-five percent of people in urban communities considered the pandemic’s economic impacts a major problem compared to 31% of suburbanites and 33% of rural Americans. Thirty-seven percent of city slickers also considered the health impacts of Covid-19 a major problem, compared to 23% of urban and 24% of rural respondents.

More Black and Hispanic respondents considered the pandemic’s economic and health impacts major problems than their white and Asian counterparts. Nearly half of Black respondents reported each of these as major issues, while less than a third of white and Asian respondents were concerned about the pandemic affecting the economy. About a fifth each of white and Asian survey-takers worried about the pandemic’s health impacts.

Meanwhile 38% of Democrats said they were concerned about the pandemic’s economic impacts compared to 29% of Republicans; 35% of Democrats considered health impacts a major problem compared to 16% of Republicans.

“The partisan gap on the economic and health impact persists across urban, suburban and rural communities,” the survey found.

“Regardless of how they view the lingering impacts of the pandemic or the extent to which they believe their lives have returned to normal, there’s one thing most Americans agree on: the coronavirus outbreak has been a divisive event in the country,” researchers observed.

More than three-quarters of Republicans and Democrats, along with more than 73% of rural, suburban and urban dwellers agreed the pandemic has driven the nation apart. A minor share of 8% thought the pandemic brought people across the country together.

At the local level, only 47% of Americans reported that the pandemic divided people within their communities, while 13% observed people coming together.

A fifth of respondents believe their community will never be the same again. Thirty-nine percent of people polled said it would take more than two years for their economy to recover, and 14% are pessimistic the economy will ever return to prepandemic conditions.

Still, a nontrivial 41% of Americans said their life never changed or will be back to normal in less than a year.

Slightly fewer Americans are satisfied with their quality of life in 2021 compared to 2018, but most are still content, with 74% reporting being at least somewhat satisfied, including 24% who remain very satisfied.

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