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Pandemic pushed more people into the outer burbs, Census finds

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Flexible work arrangements struck during the COVID-19 pandemic have allowed some workers to live further from the city.

The nation’s fastest-growing places are increasingly likely to be exurban places on the outer edges of metropolitan areas, according to 2023 population estimates released last week. The latest figures come from the Vintage 2023 Population Estimates.

“While the Census Bureau doesn’t define exurbs, we tend to think of them as far outer suburbs of metro areas, and they often have a mix of urban and rural character,” said Luke Rogers, a demographer in the Census Bureau’s Population Division. “Exurbs have sometimes been among the most rapidly growing communities, but this appears to be even more true now than before the pandemic.”

The fastest-growing city with a population of 20,000 or more was near Dallas. The population of Celina, Texas, grew by 26.6%. That’s more than 53 times that of the nation’s growth rate of 0.5%. Celina is about 42 miles north of Dallas.

Multiple factors underpin the trend. Among them: Rising housing costs and more opportunities to work from home.

“With many more people in working ages now able to work from home at least some of the time, it’s likely that some people are more willing to live farther away from their place of employment than they would have in the past,” Rogers said.