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Changes in commuter behavior from cities to suburbs


Interested in the way remote work is reshaping traditional working norms? Changes in commuter behavior from cities to suburbs post pandemic are here to stay. Using data from 2019 and 2021 the Census Bureau shows how COVID-19 changed the way people commute to major cities. Results echo the same trends seen across remote working attitudes and employer flexibility for hybrid or remote working options.


Many city dwellers longing for the space and solace of the suburbs often dread the argues commute. However, a recent analysis of commuter-adjusted population data from 2019 and 2021 by the Census Bureau shows changes in commuter behaviors. A shift that began during the COVID-19 pandemic may be here to say. This could all together relive or in at least some ways minimize this pain point for those leaving cities. Read further to see the ways remote work is rapidly changing commuter behaviors in many major metropolitan areas. Stuck commuting five days a week? Check-out these NYC suburbs that offer commutes in under 30 mins. 

Major Metropolitan Changes

It is no surprise; the New York Metro Area was among one of the greatest impacted by commuter changes. Manhattan alone experienced a commuter-adjusted population decrease of 800,000. This calculation is made by adding the total number of people who work in an area to the total number of people who live in an area and then subtracting the number of people who both live and work in an area. The report also reflected resident populations, which refer to people who live in an area but may or may not work there. Manhattan saw a decrease in their resident population during this time, although at 50,000 it was not as extreme.

Many other counties in New York saw an increase in both their commuter-adjusted and resident populations. Most notably Kings County (aka Brooklyn) saw a 300,000 increase in their commuter-adjusted population and 81,000 increase in their resident population. Similar trends were seen in other major cities with a decline in both resident and commuter-adjusted populations in Los Angeles County and Orange County. Cook County, the most populous county in the Chicago metro area saw a commuter-adjusted population decrease of about 60,000 and a resident population gain of 23,000. Similar trends can be seen across major metropolitan areas in the US.

Suburbs vs. City Dynamics:

Remote work has allowed people to choose where they live, and many Americans are choosing suburban living. A recent Pew Research Report highlights that Americans are “less likely now than they were before to want to live in urban areas – and more likely to want to live in the suburbs.” Hybrid working models are creating more freedom and opening more possibilities for people who have historically worked in cities. A McKinsey report stated, “As of fall 2022, workers were going to the office just 3.5 days per week, on average, some 30 percent below prepandemic norms.” Employers are embracing the hybrid approach with a recent Little Mendelson PC Report noting over 70% of US employers are providing flexible work arrangements. Though the pandemic sparked these shifts in working and commuting behavior it seems these trends are here to stay.


Across major metropolitan areas in the US, we are seeing dramatic shifts in commuter behavior. The shift is fueled by workers preferences for more choice and freedom in where they live and more flexibility from employers to offer fully remote positions or hybrid working models for their employees. For more information on making the transition from cities to suburbs click here.

  1. U.S. Census Bureau: (accessed 01/06/2024)
  2. Pew Research Center: (accessed 01/06/2024)
  3. McKinsey Global Institute: (accessed 01/06/2024)
  4. Forbes / Little Mendelson PC Report: (accessed 01/06/2024)