More people are drawn to the countryside: Corona is shrinking major German cities

More and more people have been drawn to Germany’s major cities in recent years. The corona pandemic has stopped this trend for the time being. There are several reasons for this.

In the 2020 pandemic year, major German cities did not grow for the first time in years. The number of people in cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants even fell slightly by 0.1 percent compared to the previous year, as the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden announced. The bottom line is that the urban districts, with a migration deficit of around 110,000 people, experienced the highest population loss due to domestic moves since 2011.

At the end of 2020, almost 24.5 million people lived in large cities. That was around 29.4 percent of the total population. At the end of 2011 this proportion was still 28.7 percent. Since 2011, the population in urban districts has grown by an average of 0.7 percent per year. This trend did not continue. In 2020, both moves within Germany – the so-called internal migration – as well as immigration and emigration from and abroad declined.

Since 2011, the population growth in large cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants has been mainly due to immigration from abroad. Last year, the number of immigrants from abroad was around 452,000 and the number of people moving abroad was 361,000 – compared to 2019, net immigration from outside Germany fell from 148,000 to around 91,000. Above all, fewer 18- to 35-year-olds came from abroad.

In addition, there were fewer moves within Germany. In the Corona year 2020, there were around 855,000 new arrivals and 965,000 departures in independent large cities. In the previous year there were 933,000 new arrivals and 993,000 departures. Above all, the influx of 18 to 22-year-olds, i.e. at the typical age of training and starting their studies, in the big cities decreased.