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The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  • COVID-19 and the Housing Markets
  • Volume 24 Number 3
  • Managing Editor: Mark D. Shroder
  • Associate Editor: Michelle P. Matuga

Are Settlement Patterns Changing in the United States as We Emerge from the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Elaine Ng
Jeremy Albright
Holi Urbas
Kurt Usowski

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not represent the official positions or policies of the Office of Policy Development and Research, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the U.S. Government.

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the way people work, the state of the nation’s housing markets, and, crucially, where people choose to live. This article identifies relocation patterns between counties of different population density types within metropolitan areas following the onset of the pandemic. Density types are defined as the population per square mile divided into four quantiles: highdensity or urban (99th density percentile and above), intermediate-density (89th to 98th percentile), suburban-density (25th to 88th percentile), and rural-density (24th percentile and below). This analysis examines the county-weighted year-over-year change in the 12-month average of sales prices and sales volume as well as the year-over-year change in the four-quarter moving average of apartment rents and vacancy rates in 118 combined statistical areas that contain multiple counties of at least two density types.

These combined statistical areas were classified into relocation patterns by first comparing the integral of price changes by density type both before and after the onset of the pandemic. This comparison was then supplemented with a visual identification of trends, using graphs to verify that the classifications made sense.

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