Families with young kids largely drove the “exodus” from big cities seen during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new analysis found.

The report from the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan business organization, analyzed US Census data showing the number of children under 5 living in large cities has fallen by 5.4% since 2019.

Manhattan saw a 9.5% decline in the age group, while San Francisco has lost 7.6% of its population that age, according to the report.

The analysis suggested that with the rise of remote work, young families in particular may benefit from the lower cost of housing and living outside big cities — adding that rising crime and school closures may have also had an impact, though further analysis is needed.

“I’m sad to leave. I really do love the city — it just doesn’t feel like I can trust it right now,” said mom Margaret Nichols, who is leaving the city after 25 years for East Hampton.

Nichols first relocated from Brooklyn to Long Island ahead of the 2020-21 school year, when her son was 3. The family briefly returned to the Big Apple — before COVID-19 protocols and requirements compelled them to move away again.

The number of families with children under 5 in big cities saw a drop between 2020 and 2021.

“It became really clear that in the New York City public school he was supposed to be in in the fall was not going to open,” Nichols told The Post. “He was an energetic kid. I was a single mom living in a 1.5-bedroom apartment.”

She added, “We’re going to be done in the city and let go of my apartment finally.”

The population shifts could have massive implications for city public school systems that tie funding to enrollment, such as New York.

“Most states base education funds on enrollment and as a result, fewer students means fewer education dollars,” wrote the report’s authors, Adam Ozimek and Connor O’Brien. “This creates costly and disruptive adjustment problems like laying off teachers and shutting down schools, which can in turn reduce education quality.”

There has been a 5.4% drop in the number of children under 5 living in large cities.

In total, New York City public schools — including 3K and preK, as well as charter schools — enroll 73,000 fewer students since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the city’s Independent Budget Office.

Education officials have told The Post the system is on track to lose tens of thousands more.

Accounting for the latest enrollment figures, the Office of the New York City Comptroller predicts that principals are facing at least $372 million in collective losses to their individual school budgets.

The data hints that “the shoe has yet to drop” for K-12 school districts, read the analysis.

Close up of a young family having breakfast in their new home
Enrollment in New York City public schools has also seen a decrease.
Getty Images

“Today’s smaller crop of children under five will translate to lower K-12 enrollment in years to come,” wrote the authors, Adam Ozimek and Connor O’Brien.

Researchers noted that birth rates overall have declined, and nationally fewer immigrant families have moved to the US.

“It’s still a very open question, whether this exodus is a blip or a sign of things to come,” O’Brien told The Post.

O’Brien said that some temporary disincentives, like COVID-related school closures, may be a thing of the past — while other considerations, like remote work or cities’ high housing costs, will likely persist.

“A lot of the implications for cities depends on whether families come back, or whether this was a temporary COVID phenomenon,” he added.


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