The biggest US demographic changes

Written by by Sara Melnikov, CNN

The five most recent U.S. Census data are out, shedding light on some very telling demographic trends.

According to the results, almost all Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 identify as millennials, marking a shift in how Americans have been identifying themselves and where they are living.

In addition, all millennials reside in major metropolitan areas, as younger millennials continue to flock to vibrant urban cores. And while the Census data doesn’t indicate which percentage of millennials are renters, they do indicate that they’re not all in one place.

The data may not be nationally comprehensive, but it does provide a snapshot of the nation’s changing demographics, and the key drivers of this change.

Cultural areas as lodestars

Perhaps more surprisingly, this shift toward urban metropolises wasn’t limited to young adults. Young adults aged 35 to 39 who are not homeowners were twice as likely to have a job in a major urban area as a 25-34 year-old and a majority of them have a college degree.

“We’re always going to see great demand for tertiary employment on the coasts, and people who are not willing to deal with the commute to the city,” says Bill Hogarth, a Ph.D. candidate in economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the lead authors of the data.

“However, you’re also seeing the opposite in other cities,” he says. “People who are willing to build a life here are struggling to find work.”

Andrew Kligerman, a Yale-trained economist who holds a senior vice president position at BNY Mellon, says those who are working for salary in these cities may be doing so because they need to raise money to buy a house. “If you have lower and middle incomes, living in a less expensive city may be a better long-term strategy,” he says.

Move over, coastal haven

It’s not just young people leaving the suburbs for city life. The New York Times reports that population numbers in metro areas have been declining for at least a decade. “Not only are residents losing mobility from city to suburbs, but now they’re leaving cities altogether for the suburbs,” says Kligerman.

Although low home ownership rates have been declining in most places, the study’s authors note that this, too, isn’t a one-way trend. And while the number of young adults living in post-war suburbs continues to fall, the declines aren’t entirely due to people moving out of suburbs to live closer to the city.

The share of the nation’s renters in suburbs has been rising, even as the share of young adults living in homes within a 10-minute drive of a downtown declined. And the rise of millennials living within a 10-minute drive of a major metropolis isn’t due to the number of young adults becoming full-time renters, but because they’re having children — a trend noted by sociologist Bob Windsor in the same New York Times article.

The result is fewer young adults living in the suburbs but more young adults living in city apartments or “dedicated apartment communities,” notes Kligerman. “Packed, cluttered loft-style apartments, wrapped with 3,000 square feet of living space, have become less hip,” he says. “Now millennials are embracing more urban living.”

Home purchase, moving trends will change

Hogarth says, as millennials age and move on from college, they’ll begin to make decisions about buying a home. And with a much lower proportion of young adults living alone, houses can be for roommates as well.

“The falling proportion of unmarried young adults means that their college-aged daughters or sons will be more interested in buying a house than their counterparts from a few decades ago,” he says.

Similar changes in the market will affect whether younger people settle down, suggests Hogarth.

“It will probably take longer for families to purchase a house,” he says. “A 30-year mortgage is now probably more expensive than the kind of 30-year mortgages that young families used to be able to get in the 1980s and 1990s.

“And the next wave of growth might be in people living together — together in a multi-unit housing situation.”

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