An article in Gizmodo challenges some conventional thinking with regards to millennials’ preference for urban lifestyles. According to some new studies, the generation born after 1980 may not be shunning the suburbs after all. In fact, there is evidence that more millennials are moving to the suburbs than the city, only they just might be making the move a little later than prior generations.
FiveThirtyEight dug into this a few months back. According to the 2014 census, while the rate at which people between the age of 25 and 29 are moving to suburbs has slowed when compared to the mid-1990s, when you look at the 30-44-year-old range, the rate of suburban relocation has actually sped up.
Gizmodo believes there are a few reasons for this, though it doesn’t mention one that seems kind of obvious: as more people postpone those life changes – marriage, kids – that often drive the desire for a little bit more home and space, suburban flight is also postponed.
The three causes Gizmodo points to sound equally significant. Rapidly rising rents in popular cities like New York, San Francisco, and Austin are driving away younger workers, and what they are finding are suburbs that look less and less like the Levittowns of yesteryear. As we have seen in places like Addison and Legacy Town Center in Plano, the suburbs now offer a kind of hybrid, urbanized-suburban situation that can satisfy millennials loves of hikes and bikes and coffee shops without having to give up the suburban conveniences of larger dwellings at more affordable prices.
The most interesting part of the article, however, relates to its observation that the urban-love of the millennial generation is perhaps motivated not by urban form, per se, but by a shared sense of creative opportunistic entrepreneurialism urban environments can afford. Put another way, millennials are not just looking in a “where” to live, they are attracted to places that demand their participation in the making of a “where.” And so while creative centers like New York, San Francisco, and Austin price-out the next generation, there is an opportunity for smaller cities and more urban-style suburbs.
Dallas isn’t mentioned by name in the article, but I could give you list of few dozen young people in this city who, when asked, would say more or less the same thing as Nicole Behnke, the 24-year-old Milwaukee resident, who decided where to live based on the effect she could have in her adopted home:
“There is an energy of millennials who are coming together and galvanizing and they want to be the creators,” says Behnke. “Not to take away from what they are doing in places like Austin and Brooklyn, but do you want to participate in their culture, or do you want to be like San Antonio or Milwaukee and be the creator of the culture? A lot of us want to be the creators—we want to be the ones making the change.”