Opinion: This pandemic could spark an urban exodus

The 28-year-old entrepreneur and marketing strategist says she always had a “ride or die L.A. personality.” But after spending a few weeks in Atlanta for work last fall, Howard was tempted: She’d been shelling out far too much of her income for sky-high rent in a city that had becomepainfully costly to enjoy. A place like Atlanta could offer a slower pace and upward gains that feel impossible in California — perhaps she could even buy a house in the coming years. Well before the current crisis, we’ve seen young professionalslike Howard who live in coastal hubs like Los Angeles, Boston, New York and San Francisco move to populous but more affordable metros, sometimes called “second-tier cities”(think placeslike Dallas, Houston, Nashville, Columbus and Orlando). Within the costliest metros, there’s been steady movement to the suburbs and outskirts, says Joel Kotkin, apresidentialfellow inurban futures at Chapman University. Video: EU sets out 'quick fixes' to boost bank lending during pandemic (Reuters) New York, Los Angeles and Chicago led cities in net out-migration between 2012 and 2017, according to a Brookings analysis, collectively losing 70,000 people in the 25-34 age group. ____________________________________________________  More on coronavirus: ____________________________________________________ As the nation braces for a recession the IMF predicts will be the worst since the Great Depression, economists and demographers caution it’s too early to gauge whether more Americans will be moving in the short term. But the U.S. could see a mobility spike among those whose job loss forces them to seekcheaper housing immediately once the economy resumes, says Igor Popov, chief economist at Apartment List. While commercial real estate market could see a revenue dip, this also means companies could reduce their most expensive line item. “Even if you can shrink your commercial real estate costs in half in a place like San Francisco or Boston, that will save you a tremendous amount of money,” Popov says. Over the past five years, companies also have begun to disperse workforces nationally rather than only clustering employees in their headquarter cities, says Popov. The economic recovery after the Great Recession was concentrated in a few “superstar markets” — the same cities where cost of living has become untenable for people like Howard — while job prospects in many other regions never recovered. Untethering Americans from those roots, planted by preference for some and necessity for others, could free people to sow seeds in fields that might welcome the growth.