Are Millennials leaving town? Reconciling peak Millennials and youthification hypotheses

Hyojung Lee

Are Millennials leaving town? Yes, they are. Are young adults leaving town? No, they are not. The seemingly contradicting answers are due to the fact that age and birth cohort are distinct concepts. Showing how these two phenomena can coexist, this paper aims to provide detailed and timely information on how Millennials are faring compared to previous generations in the United States. Using the 1962–2019 Current Population Survey (CPS), the paper first analyzes the current status of Millennials, in terms of various demographic and socio-economic dimensions, and compares them with those of older generations at the same ages. The results indicate that Millennials did experience delays in transition into adulthood, but they have started to catch up in recent years. Then this paper examines the residential location of young adults and Millennials across metropolitan status, and across urban and suburban areas of the largest 50 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the United States. The analysis based on the confidential version of the 2006–2019 American Community Survey (ACS) microdata confirms that the early Millennials have started to migrate from urban to suburban areas, consistent with the peak Millennial hypothesis, and that the urban presence of young adults has increased over time, consistent with the youthification hypothesis. Reconciling the two hypotheses, this paper discusses the implications of ongoing demographic shifts for the future urban landscape.