Are Millennials giving up on Cities? Analysis of recent census data tends to overlook small and midsized cities

A recent report in the Wall Street Journal suggests that millennials (population born between 1981 and 1996) are leaving big cities like New York, Chicago and Houston for nearby suburbs or the suburbs of other metro areas.

While the data from the U.S. Census bureau does show that cities including New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C. and Portland, Ore have lost residents between 25 and 39 (this includes late-born Gen Xers as well as Millennials) over the past 4 years, other cities including Los Angeles), Phoenix (San Antonio, San Diego, Austin, Columbus, Seattle and Denver  all saw their populations in this age group increase. This suggests that there is still interest in living in big cities, just cities with more affordable living options than those available in cities like New York and Chicago.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Source: The Wall Street Journal

More importantly, the article does not address the possibility that those who are leaving cities like New York and Chicago are “boomeranging” back to smaller and midsize cities that have more affordable housing but the same amenities that living in a bigger city have to offer (see our recent blog about Kathleen – a Hopewell, Ohio “boomerang” who returned home after living in Columbus for several years after college). Legacy cities throughout Ohio (cities like Hamilton and Marion) are working to market themselves as lower-cost alternatives to younger residents who are looking for big-city living (including walkable, connected neighborhoods with nearby amenities) at a fraction of the cost of living in major urban centers.

We, at GOPC, know the story of urban flight and urban regrowth is nuanced and everyday we are working to understand in/out flow trends in Ohio’s communities. What we do know is that they are rich with amenities, walkable neighborhoods, and activities that residents of all ages want and value.