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Why Millennials may leave the city after all

by James Bellandi

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Cities may see less Millennials moving in going forward, thanks to shifting demographic trends as the generation grows older, according to a new CityLab report.

The report, which covered a talk by USC urban planning professor Dowell Myers, argued that U.S. cities may currently be at their “peak Millennial” populations, and that Millennials will soon exit cities for suburban environments. It’s all a matter of proportions, Myers argued – Millennials who were born in 1990 turned 25 last year, and that age is when people begin taking housing and work situations more seriously. And given that the majority of Millennials were born in 1990, it stands to reason that a large swath of the generation will begin transitioning to new housing environments to accommodate life changes.

It’s a transition, Myers argued, that has precedent. Every generation before Millennials shifted towards suburban lifestyles, and fueled the end of an urban boom. Myers described the trend of generations moving in and out of cities as cyclical in nature. Previous generations have sought more space, better schools and larger houses as they’ve aged – all features that are typically found in suburban settings. Thus, cities that have previously enjoyed rapid growth may see declines.

Myers isn’t the only one predicting this change, either. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, a 2015 survey indicated that 66 percent of people born since 1977 wanted to live in the suburbs, versus only 10 percent who wanted to live in urban centers.

Millennials Seek Amenities, Not Job Proximity

Despite what Myers argues, even when Millennials leave urban centers, their departure may not resemble those of past generations. According to a Builder magazine survey, although 83 percent of Millennials are willing to move away from the city to find the ideal home, many still prefer the amenities of urban living. Eighty percent of survey respondents, for instance, wanted parks near to their home, while 78 percent wanted nearby grocery stores and 71 percent wanted entertainment.

Additionally, other research has suggested that urban living may be more than a fad for Millennials. Another study from CityLab found that job centralization was not a key factor causing Millennials to move into the city; instead, in the 10 largest metros in the U.S., Millennials are living downtown regardless of where they work.

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