Exodus? Well, kinda. Millennials, suburbia, families, and stereotypes.

Posted On September 12, 2016

Part of the picture most of us tend to have about millennials is of an urban existence. Mass transit. Refurbished lofts. Biking to Starbucks for a Frappuccino or the local craft brewery for a beer. But is it an accurate picture?

According to FiveThirtyEight.com, not so much.

Citing data from the U.S. Census Bureau, FiveThirtyEight’s Jed Kolko notes that millennials ages 25-34 between the years of 2009-13 were actually slightly less likely to live in urban areas than 25- to 34-year-olds in 2000.

While the percentage of college-educated millennials living in hyper-urban areas, those with the greatest population density, has increased during that time frame, Kolko notes that most millennials do not have college degrees. While the generation may on the whole be better educated than its parents and grandparents, only 32 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds have earned bachelor’s degrees.

What’s more, FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Casselman notes U.S. Census Data that shows more 20-somethings are moving to the suburbs than to the city.

So then, are millennials not urban-minded? That’s not necessarily true, either. Here is where generational trends collide.

As I’ve noted in this space before, millennials are getting married later than previous generations – for a variety of reasons, societal and economic. When do people typically move out of the city and into the suburbs? When they get married and settle down to start a family. Kolko claims the trend toward marrying later explains almost half the increase of college-educated millennials heading to cities.

It may also explain many of the millennials who are leaving them. Casselman’s data is for millennials ages 25-29. Even if millennials are marrying “later,” their late 20s would still be a time in which many of them are tying the knot. And Casselman notes that while more millennials are moving out of cities than into them, they are still moving to the suburbs at a lower rate than previous generations did at the same age.

We tend to think that millennials like certain things or behave certain ways simply because they’re millennials, but they are reacting to forces in the marketplace and within society like any of the rest of us. An increase in college attendance and the ballooning of student-loan debt play a role in millennials, on average, getting married later. Staying single longer plays a role in the millennial affinity for urban areas. Once they get married and start having children, however, the suburbs that so many of them swore they’d escape suddenly don’t look so bad.

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Generation Y / Millennials, Home Ownership