Americans’ decades-long love affair with the US West appears to be souring as high housing costs in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle encourage migration to the South, a new analysis shows.

The share of the US population living in the West grew steadily over the decades before peaking at about 23.8% in 2019. Since then it flattened and began to decline, reaching 23.6% last year, according to a Bank of America Institute report citing US Census Bureau data.

The South, despite a slight dip in 2020, has continued to grow to its current 38.9% share of the nation’s population. The shares of Americans living in the Northeast and Midwest continued their decades-long slides.

The bank attributes much of the West’s migration woes to unaffordable housing. There’s a close relationship between a metropolitan area’s median mortgage payment and that area’s change of population last year, the bank’s research shows. Mortgage payments in Pacific Coast metropolitan areas all exceed payments in other regions. 

Generally, the loss of population “is more of a Pacific story,” since more inland metro areas […]

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