Economic Development News & Insight


Are millennials becoming trapped in cities?

/ January 30, 2015

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Are millennials becoming trapped in cities?

It seems like a common theme that young people often tend to live in cities.  Young adults just striking out on their own in the world want to live in exciting urban centers, close to food, entertainment, and their place of employment.  It is generally assumed that the city holds an alluring grip on millennials, but new reports now seem to contend that while they may tend to live in cities, they may not enjoy it as much as everyone assumes.

A Nielson study conducted in 2014 investigated the attitudes of young adults, finding that 62 percent of millennials who responded to their survey want to live near a variety of restaurants, shops, offices, entertainment and public transportation.  What is key in this survey though is that the question wasn’t “Do you prefer to live in the city?” rather it was a question of preference.  While it seems that millennials do prefer an urban lifestyle, they also want to be able to establish a single family home, similar to the ones that their parents have.  The National Association of Home Builders also took a survey of 1500 people born after the year 1977.  Of those 1500 people, 66 percent said that they wanted to live in the suburbs, 24 percent want to live in rural communities, and only 10 percent wanted to live in a city.  So while the urban lifestyle is appealing, it seems that it is not appealing enough, as the suburbs are the preferred destination.  In part it also could be that the suburbs are now beginning to offer more of a urban atmosphere, further drawing millennials to them.

So why don’t they just leave the city? The truth is that many cannot afford to.  The median wages for millennials has steadily dropped since the recession in 2008, leaving many unable to save money and develop a good credit score that could be used to secure a mortgage.  Young adults no longer have the financial stability to buy a home and move to smaller communities.  This also presents a problem for smaller communities as the leaving of people from major cities also disperses their wealth to smaller communities that will grow because of it.  The reduction of young people leaving for the suburbs reduces this grow and disbursement.  Its not just that young people want to leave, but its also that suburbs are increasingly happy to have them in the community.

Before the recession occurred, millennials were leaving New York and Los Angeles at the rate of 50,000 per year respectively.  Since the recession, that number has dropped to 23,000 leaving New York and only 12,000 leaving Los Angeles.  The effects of this are not yet seen, but it appears that it is a situation that will remain unresolved for the time being.  Many millennials will remain stuck within the city, whether they like it or not.

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