Geographic mobility within the U.S. has been declining since 2012. Between 1984 and 1985, over 20% of Americans moved residences. By 2020, that figure had dropped to less than 10%. Moving of all kinds—within the same county, to a different county within the same state, and to another state—is trending downwards. Reasons for this decline include an aging population, high housing and moving costs, and the rise of dual-earner households, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted many moves, but the trends towards remote work may spur more residents to change locations, particularly to more affordable areas.
While the total U.S. population grew by 1.3%—or about 4.4 million people—from 2017 to 2020, some cities and states experienced dramatic population growth. At the state level, Idaho and Nevada grew at the highest rates from 2017 to 2020, at 6.2% and 5.6% respectively. Both relatively low population and affordable states, Idaho gained about 107,000 residents while Nevada gained just over 166,000 during the three-year period. On the other hand, many states with above-average living costs like Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, and California saw their populations decline or stagnate over the same period.
To find the affordable metros with the most population growth in recent years, researchers at Roofstock analyzed the latest population data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the latest cost-of-living data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The researchers ranked metro areas according to the percentage change in population from 2017 to 2020. Researchers also calculated the total change in population from 2017 to 2020 and the cost of living. To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included. Additionally, locations with above-average living costs were filtered out.
The analysis found that the cost of living in the Phoenix metro area is 1.3% below the national average. Between 2017 and 2020, the population in Phoenix increased by 6.3%. Out of all affordable large U.S. metros, Phoenix experienced the 3rd most population growth. Here is a summary of the data for the Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ metro area:
• Percentage change in population (2017–2020): 6.3%
• Total change in population (2017–2020): 299,192
• Population 2020: 5,059,909
• Cost of living (compared to average): -1.3%
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
• Percentage change in population (2017–2020): 1.3%
• Total change in population (2017–2020): 4,361,995
• Population 2020: 329,484,123
• Cost of living (compared to average): N/A