According to recently released U.S. Census Bureau data, millennials are not the passion-hunting rootless wanderers we often imagine them to be. In fact, they’re significantly more grounded than the last four generations, at least in latitude and longitude terms.
Last year, only 20 percent of adults ages 25 to 35 reported living at a different address one year earlier. This represents a sharp drop for that age group, whose movement has been fairly steady for decades. In 2000, 26 percent of 25-35 year-old Gen-Xers had moved in the last year, and in 1963, 26 percent of 25-35 year-olds in the so-called Silent Generation had relocated.
This relative immobility is surprising for a few reasons, also documented by the U.S. Census Bureau. First, millennials are less likely to be married than earlier generations of young adults, which points to more flexibility and mobility – if there’s only one person looking for a new job in a new town instead of two, it’s theoretically easier to make moving work. In the 25-35 year-old age group, only 42 percent of millennials reported cohabiting with a spouse in 2016, compared to 82 percent of Silents in 1963.
Second, fewer Millennials have to worry about selling a home they already own in order to pick up and move. Renters are generally more mobile than homeowners.
But while 56 percent of 25-35 year-old Early Boomers lived in owner-occupied housing (specifically not owned by their parents) in 1981, only 37 percent of millennials reported living in such housing last year.
Third, a whopping 56 percent of 25-35 year-old millennials were childless in 2016, while fewer than half of the past three generations were childless as young adults. No children should mean an easier move – no hunting for good schools or worrying about pulling kids away from friends, comfort zones, and doting grandparents.
So millennials don’t have spouses, they don’t have houses, and they don’t have kids. Why are they staying put?
[clickToTweet tweet=”The Recession could be playing a big part in the sudden downshift in mobility for millennials. ” quote=”The Recession could be playing a big part in the sudden downshift in mobility for millennials. “]
Millennials were among those most affected, in terms of job-holding and salaries, and many young adults who did move in the past year were motivated by job opportunities, suggesting that the job market just isn’t strong enough for many to count on a potential job across the country.
Millennials are also up against tighter lending standards, tougher mortgages, and astronomical student debt, which makes it less appealing to move in order to own a home – especially if there aren’t any kids to make space for.
Whatever the reason, America’s youngest adult generation is growing geographically static. On the one hand, this could be a bad thing for employers, who may face a workforce more unwilling or generally unlikely to follow a job, or come to a job, than ever before. On the other hand, this could be a good thing for cities and towns looking to build real communities of people invested in the place they live, not just stopping on their way to the next big thing.