We heard about pandemic migration to Vermont. New research shows where people went.

Source: Burlington Free Press

Before the pandemic, national migration patterns showed that in general, people were moving from less urban locations to urban centers. The pandemic, however, seems to have recently changed migration patterns nationally and in Vermont.

While 2020 Census data showed Vermont population growth mostly centered in Chittenden County, recent research by Vermont geographers shows that in the past year, migration has shifted towards the urban cores of smaller towns and cities in Vermont such as Brattleboro, Barre and Waterbury.

Peter Nelson, professor of geography at Middlebury College, and Cheryl Morse, associate professor of geography at the University of Vermont used cell phone data i n a new research project to track migration in Vermont. They found that the migration to smaller towns and cities or “micropolitan core areas” to be a strong and persistent pattern, more persistent than the national trend of migration to rural areas. Nelson thinks the pattern is an interesting prospect for Vermont.

“From a public policy and a planning perspective, I think that’s kind of interesting because it means there’s an interest in residential space in these more built up areas of our small cities,” Nelson said in an interview with local radio station WDEV. “That might bring a renewed cycle of investment into our small town and downtown areas.”

Nelson used public data provided by a company called SafeGraph, which tracks the number of phones in geographic areas. The number of phones represents the number of people well, Nelson said, because the majority of people own cell phones. In the future, he is applying for funding to access more individualized data from every phone to track exactly where people moved from and when.

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