Analyzing data from the United States Census, Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko found that the population growth of millennials in big, dense cities was outpaced by big-city suburbs and lower-density cities. Kolko also found that baby boomer growth in big, dense cities fell short of growth in big-city suburbs.
To analyze the data, Kolko divvied all U.S. counties into four quartiles based on household density, leaving each quartile with approximately one-fourth of the total population. "Going from the highest to lowest density, the four categories correspond roughly to (1) big, dense cities; (2) big-city suburbs and lower-density cities; (3) lower-density suburbs and small cities; and (4) smaller towns and rural areas," Kolko said.
From 2012 to 2013, the population growth of millennials (20-34 year-olds) was the highest outside of large cities. The fastest growth was in areas with big-city suburbs and lower-density cities. Surprisingly, the data revealed that lower-density suburbs and smaller cities edged out big, dense cities for millennial population growth.
While Kolko noted that the differences are far from astronomical, it certainly is true that there is "no mad rush to the cities—despite the shift from homeownership to renting among these young adults."
Metros with the fastest growth in the millennial population were in the South and West. The five metros with the largest growth in millennial population include: Colorado Springs, Colorado (3.2 percent); San Antonio, Texas (3.0 percent); Peabody, Massachusetts (2.9 percent); Honolulu, Hawaii (2.8 percent); and Denver, Colorado (2.5 percent).
Conversely, baby boomers are becoming more urban, according to Trulia's chief economist. While growth for baby boomers in big-city suburbs and lower-density cities was the highest quartile of the four measured, it only barely edged out growth in the top quartile of big, dense cities. Overall, baby boomer population growth skewed more urban than millennials.
All of the top ten metros with the fastest growing population of baby boomers were in the South and West. The top five metros for baby boomer population growth include: Austin, Texas (4.4 percent); Raleigh, North Carolina (4.3 percent); Dallas, Texas (3.5 percent); Charlotte, South Carolina (3.4 percent); and Charleston, South Carolina (3.3 percent).
Kolko commented, "Here's what else these boomer-attracting metros have in common: they tend to have relatively young populations. In fact, Austin has the highest share of millennials of any large metro; millennials account for disproportionately high shares of the populations of Charleston, Dallas, and Houston as well … That means that boomers increasingly want to be where millennials live already."
He cautiously summarized his analysis with a few caveats: "The trends that are happening today may not last; they surely reflect current housing and economic conditions, but don't necessarily reflect a long-term, permanent change in how or where people want to live."