Coronavirus: Nearly 420,000 of New York’s wealthiest residents flee city amid pandemic

‘Even though there’s a strong rhetoric of ‘We’re all in it together’, that’s not really the case’

Louise Hall
Friday 15 May 2020 19:36
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Nearly 420,000 New York City residents have fled the city amidst the coronavirus pandemic, with most of the departures being the city’s more affluent residents, according to a report from The New York Times.

The report, based on an analysis of multiple sources of aggregated smartphone location data, shows that around 5 per cent of the city’s population left the area between 1 March and 1 May.

The newspaper’s analysis indicates that the population has dropped, particularly in the city’s wealthiest neighbourhoods including the Upper East Side, the West Village, SoHo and Brooklyn Heights.

In these more affluent areas of the city, the residential population decreased by 40 per cent or more.

Some of the other areas that saw a drop in residents are said to be typically home to student populations, which have starkly depleted due to university closures.

However, the model suggested the higher-earning neighbourhoods are the most likely to have seen stark population decreases amidst the virus, the report said.

“There is a way that these crises fall with a different weight on people based on social class,” Kim Phillips-Fein, a history professor at New York University told The Times.

“Even though there’s a strong rhetoric of ‘We’re all in it together’, that’s not really the case.”

More than one-third of the top-earning one per cent of New Yorkers were shown to have left the city, while most residents in the bottom percentile, earning $90,000 or less stayed in their homes, according to the newspaper.

Data collected from smartphones and used in population evaluation is considered “imperfect” as it is missing out those without smartphones and often relies on certain guesswork about residents.

However, it can be useful to measure quick population shifts on a large scale.

Other anecdotal accounts have reflected the conclusion that wealthier New Yorkers have left the city and moved to their summer homes or vacation residences.

While the main data used in the report was provided by Descartes Labs, a geospatial analysis company, The Times also said that this analysis is consistent with two separate estimates based on other providers of location data.

According to the report, all three evaluations pointed to the conclusion that a significantly larger proportion of wealthy neighbourhoods have emptied out.

The sample used by The Times consisted of about 140,000 residents, including residents from nearly every populated census tract in the city.

NYC has been the epicenter of the US outbreak and has recorded more than 190,000 cases of the virus and a death toll of over 15,300.

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