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Did it seem like lots of people moved out of Boston during the COVID-19 pandemic? New data confirm it

Passengers made their way to Terminal B at Logan Airport in November 2020.
Passengers made their way to Terminal B at Logan Airport in November 2020.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Were you among those who moved out of Boston during the COVID-19 pandemic? New data show you weren’t alone.

In 2020, more people moved out of Boston than arrived, while smaller Massachusetts communities saw an influx of residents, according to new Postal Service data analyzed by The New York Times.

The data show something that many suspected: In 2020, many people moved out of urban parts of large metro regions and into smaller metros, especially in New York and New England. They also moved to vacation destinations like Cape Cod.

In a list of the top 10 areas that saw the biggest net change in 2020 of new arrivals, Barnstable landed fourth on the list, while Pittsfield was sixth. Other New England towns were also featured among the top 10 metro areas with the biggest change in net newcomers, including Torrington, Conn., and Lebanon, N.H.

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In an indication that residents of large metropolitan areas opted to move out of big cities, Boston landed in the 10th spot on the top 10 list of places where more people left than arrived in 2020, according to the Times, which looked at change-of-address requests made with the Postal Service.

However, the Times noted that in its analysis, migration patterns in 2020 were similar to migration patterns before the pandemic, with the exception of the unusually large flow of residents out of cities like New York and San Francisco. Generally, areas that were already attracting residents continued to do so in 2020, and places that were seeing an exodus of residents continued that trend.

The Times’ analysis of the data found that generally, “the ZIP codes where more people moved out during the pandemic were denser neighborhoods in metropolitan areas where a higher share of people work in jobs that could be done from home.”

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However, the Times also noted that the analysis of Postal Service data does not reflect a number of factors, including some who don’t file a change-of-address form with the Postal Service when they move, young people moving after college, and people who move to the United States from abroad.

Additionally, “moves in and out of places with little migration might be undercounted by the Postal Service to preserve movers’ confidentiality,” The Times noted.


Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.