- New data analyzed by Kevin Quealy of The New York Times shows that New Yorkers from wealthy neighborhoods, such as the Upper East Side, fled the city at a higher rate than those from poorer neighborhoods.
- The data, from a geospatial analysis company, tracked the cellphone movements of New York City residents throughout the pandemic.
- It proves what many assumed: Wealthy people fled New York City en masse during the pandemic and headed towards more suburban areas, like the Hamptons and upstate New York.
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New cell phone and mail-forwarding data proves what many assumed: the richest New Yorkers did make up a disproportionate number of those who fled the city amid the pandemic.
Kevin Quealy of The New York Times used anonymized smartphone location data from geospatial analysis company Descartes Labs to see where New York City residents were staying throughout the coronavirus outbreak. Per the Times, the lab analyzed the aggregate movements of the residents over the course of the last few months to see whether they had fled the city — and where they wound up.
The sample data accounted for about 140,000 residents, though the Times notes that smartphone location data is “imperfect” — it cannot distinguish who is a visitor or commuter and who is a permanent resident.
But for the most part, the Lab came to the same conclusion that most had already surmised: Affluent New Yorkers (those living in neighborhoods where there’s the highest median household income) fled to less densely populated metro areas, like the Hamptons. The borough of Manhattan saw the most residents flee, especially from wealthy areas like Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Upper West Side.
According to the data, about 5% of the city emptied out between March 1 and May 1, equating to about 420,000 people. Some of the wealthiest areas, including the the Upper East Side, the West Village, SoHo, and Brooklyn Heights, saw the most departures, with their residential population decreasing by at least 40%.
Separately, Azi Paybarah, Matthew Bloch, and Scott Reinhard of The New York Times analyzed mail-forwarding requests from the US Postal Service. April saw 81,000 mail-forwarding requests from New York City, which is double the amount from the same time in 2019, the Times found. Over half of those requests to have mail forwarded outside of New York City were for Manhattan households, with most coming from the wealthiest neighborhoods, like the Upper West Side and Upper East Side.
Brooklyn saw the next highest number of mail-forwarding requests, with a majority originating from that borough’s most affluent areas, like Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo.
The vast majority of requests (over 16,000) indicated that city-dwellers hadn’t strayed too far from home — they were having their mail forwarded to new addresses in the greater New York metro area, which includes upstate New York and the Hamptons. The next top destinations for mail forwarding for NYC residents were, in order, the Miami metro area, the Philadelphia metro area, the Greater Bridgeport metro area, the Washington metro area, and the Los Angeles metro area.
Business Insider previously reported that some wealthy New Yorkers are eschewing traditional USPS mail-forwarding altogether, instead paying limo drivers to deliver mail and packages to second homes in the Hamptons where they’re holed up. But the ritzy Long Island enclave has become such a hotspot for well-heeled people hoping to escape the city that even “middle-class-rich people” are finding themselves priced out of the booming rental market, with one couple paying $10,000 a month to stay in a renovated “fisherman’s shack” in Southhampton.
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