On the move: West side story

The West’s high-income and single-household populations are moving out. But why?

Headshot of David Tinsley

David Tinsley

February 2024

Key takeaways

  • Post-pandemic, the share of the U.S. population in the South has been climbing – continuing a decades-old phenomenon. It is really the decline in the share of the population of the West that is new.
  • According to Bank of America internal data, this population decline is ongoing. We find the populations of San Francisco, Los Angeles and other western cities continued on their downward trend as of 2023 Q4. There is better news for several of the southwestern cities, with our data showing a rise in populations in both Phoenix and Las Vegas.
  • Relative housing costs still appear to be influencing much of the domestic migration story. Our data shows MSAs (metropolitan statistical areas) in the Pacific West having relatively high median mortgage payments relative to the overall U.S. We also find that a relatively high share of those leaving western MSAs are from higher-income households.
  • How persistent could these patterns be going forward? Our data suggests that a high percentage of moves between MSAs are single person households and may therefore have greater flexibility. This holds out the possibility that for regions that have seen people leave may be able to attract them back.

Read our full analysis for a more in-depth look at these trends.