People move for lots of reasons. They get a new job in a new city. They relocate to be closer to family. They decide to sell all their worldly possessions and retreat to a monastery deep in the cliffs of Bhutan (#monkmode). But when thousands of people leave a city several years in a row, it’s a sign that something’s wrong in that city.
These American cities experienced mass exodus in 2022 and 2023. Are these buy-low opportunities in once-popular American cities, or are trends set to continue? You decide.
1. Houston, Texas
Amidst a mass migration to Texas following the pandemic lockdowns, Houston appears to be an exception. After seeing substantial population loss in 2022, the trend continues with 8,369 Houstonians calling it quits on their city in the first five months of 2023.
Houston has never been the most charming city in Texas, as it’s the largest urban metroplex in the U.S. and has the traffic and industrial vibes to show for it. Uncertainty around the oil and gas industries (a major reason why many move to Houston), inflated rents and home prices, and common big-city headaches (political corruption, crime, and general chaos) apparently now outweigh Houston’s bright spots.
2. Chicago, Illinois
For some fans of shock value, Chicago’s descent into apparent lawlessness was thrilling to watch from afar. Like Grand Theft Auto in real life, the videos of jewelry store heists in broad daylight and drill rappers claiming turf on Instagram felt like venturing into a life of adventure from a safe distance.
Now, though, the situation is undeniably sad. Children losing their lives for nothing, a downtown that no longer feels insulated by the most fundamental societal codes (don’t target the tourists, for example), and an apparent lack of solutions leaves one of America’s great cities at a depressing crossroads.
The unruly situation leaves many taking the roads out of Chicago, with 7,843 residents departing in the first five months of 2023.
3. Los Angeles, California
Someone tell Randy Newman we’re going to need a rewrite. The 2023 remake of “I Love L.A.” is titled “I Leave L.A., and I’m Not the Only One.”
The homelessness problem in Los Angeles is not exaggerated. The taxes in Los Angeles are not falling. The sun in L.A. is still there, but so is the smog (and apparently Mondo rain storms, too?). With the cost of living rising nationwide, many simply cannot afford Los Angeles anymore. The city has seen a net population loss of more than 7,600 between January and May 2023.
4. New York, New York
Frank Sinatra hit it on the head in his timeless jam “New York, New York.” Start spreading the news, I’m leaving (New York City) todaaaay.
In fact, many people have realized that New York has lost much of its charm (the 80s feels like a century ago, doesn’t it?), transforming from a bustling playground that never sleeps into a concrete asylum with cameras on every corner, and someone sleeping on the sidewalk beneath every one of those cameras. You have to reconsider your decisions when it costs an arm, a leg, and your firstborn child to rent a windowless apartment you share with several invertebrate roommates.
The Big Apple lost nearly 7,600 people between January and May 2023.
5. Austin, Texas
Few cities proved as magnetic as Austin during the post-pandemic diaspora. However, to the horror of many who thought they were moving to Austin to embrace the freedom-first ethos and low cost of living that Texas promises, they found that they relocated to another crowded city.
Limited home inventory, a chaotic downtown, and the ills of a city experiencing rapid population growth have led many to turn their U-Hauls back around. More than 7,100 residents have left Austin in 2023 (when accounting for incoming residents).
6. Miami, Florida
Miami’s spot on this list proves that every action has a reaction, even if it’s not an equal and opposite one. Few cities attracted more new residents between 2020 and 2023 than Miami, but the trend might be turning around. Miami saw a reported net population loss of 5,792 in the first five months of 2023.
Bienvenidos a Miami? More like hasta la vista, Miami.
7. Dallas, Texas
Why did Dallas have a net population loss of 5,629 to start 2023? Many can’t afford housing, while experts also cite brutal traffic and even more brutal heat as reasons people are relocating away from Dallas.
8. Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson, MS, has had a brutal past few years, with a water crisis giving it the dubious distinction of being mentioned in the same sentence as Flint, Michigan. The fissures run deep in Jackson, with crumbling infrastructure, pervasive crime, limited job prospects, and woeful leadership explaining why it is one of the fastest-shrinking cities in America.
9. San Francisco, California
San Francisco, one of America’s truly iconic cities, may not be a Full House for much longer. The city’s population shrank by 7% between 2020 and 2022, and every passing day brings a new wave of social media posts lamenting the ever-present danger that simmers throughout the city by the Bay.
If you’re not stepping in human feces, you’re being accosted for money or playing hopscotch over paraphernalia. A sense of lawlessness has driven many loyal San Franciscans away from the Bay.
10. New Orleans, Louisiana
Americans have always been able to tolerate the annoyances and risks of living in a city, justifying these hazards by citing the abundance of world-class restaurants, a plethora of night spots, a populous dating pool, and ample professional opportunities.
But gumbo, Mardi Gras, and Jazz Fest only go so far when you’re living in the homicide capital of the United States. New Orleans is losing population faster than Emeril Lagasse can scream, “BAM!“.
11. St. Louis, Missouri
The decline of American manufacturing has set St. Louis on a decades-long downward trajectory, but it now feels like the once-great city might be in its death throes. East St. Louis regularly ranks among the most dangerous cities in the U.S., and nobody can claim that St. Louis is a first-tier (or even second-tier) American metropolis.
People have been leaving for quite some time, and it may not be a coincidence that “Missouri” sounds a lot like “misery.”
12. Boston, Massachussetts
Though the rate of population loss in Boston has slowed of late, Beantown was losing residents with the worst of them during the pandemic years. A notoriously costly city constantly populated by college students and transplants, there were plenty of reasons to call Boston their former home.
The city lost about 3% of its population in a recent span, according to Census.gov.
13. Cleveland, Ohio
While some other cities have lost higher percentages of their populations than Cleveland in recent years, few cities have shown a more long-term commitment to exporting their population than Cleveland.
It’s freezing in the winter. It’s a former manufacturing city in a country that’s outsourced most of its manufacturing. It’s Cleveland, and its population is shrinking year over year.
14. Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore’s problems are so deep-rooted that, despite 18 of 24 counties in Maryland experiencing population growth in 2022, Baltimore’s continued to decline, maintaining an enduring trend in the wrong direction. Systemic corruption (watch The Wire for more info) and a spotty employment landscape are among the leading reasons for Charm City’s slide into increasing irrelevance.
Pop Culture Writer, Life Hack Aficionado
- Focus: Film and Television, Life Advice, Comedic Writing
- Education: Bachelor’s of Journalism from the University of South Florida – Tampa
- Published in several international publications, including stories completed as a Wealth of Geeks geek
- Nearly seven years’ experience writing professionally
Experience: Sam Mire is a freelance writer with over seven years’ experience writing about entertainment, global events, American law, and sports. He got his start as a journalism major at the University of South Florida, and has since spent weeks in the Alaskan wildlands, immersed himself in the world of Florida’s homeless population, covered live sporting events, and served as a linchpin for media outlets in the legal, tech, and entertainment spaces. Sam has written news stories and Op-Eds featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur, AP News, Fox News, and, most notably, Wealth of Geeks.
Sam focuses on popular culture, film and television, and general life advice in his role for Wealth of Geeks. He strives to turn readers onto the directors, actors, and other creatives who deliver compelling content outside of the box-office top-ten. In his free time, he enjoys boxing, woodwork, engaging in battles of strength and wit with his dog, and spending time with good company.