Millennials Don't Go Too Far From the Nest

By age 26, more than two-thirds of young adults in the US lived in the same area where they grew up
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 25, 2022 10:16 AM CDT
Millennials Stick Close to Home
Homes in Salt Lake City are shown in 2019. A new study suggests that most young people stick close to home upon adulthood.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

A new study by Census Bureau and Harvard University researchers suggests that millennials aren't straying far from home in adulthood. By age 26, more than two-thirds of young adults in the US lived in the same area where they grew up, 80% had moved less than 100 miles away, and 90% resided less than 500 miles away, per the AP. Migration distances were shorter for Black and Hispanic individuals, compared to white and Asian young adults, and the children of higher income parents traveled farther away from their hometowns than those of less wealthy parents.

“For many individuals, the ‘radius of economic opportunity’ is quite narrow,” the report said. Young adulthood is a period in life when migration is highest in the US. The study looked at the likelihood of people born primarily between 1984 and 1992 moving away from the commuting zone they grew up in. It turns out that the most common destinations for young adults were concentrated near where they grew up, said the study which utilized decennial census, survey, and tax data. Particulars:

  • In one example of the trend, three quarters of people who grew up in the Chicago area stayed there. Los Angeles was the top destination for those who moved out of state, but that accounted for only 1.1% of young adults from Chicago.
  • Atlanta was the most popular destination for young Black adults moving away from their hometowns, followed by Houston and Washington. Young Black adults who grew up in high-income households were multiple times more likely to move to these cities in a “New Great Migration” than those from low-income families.
  • For white adults leaving their hometowns, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, and Denver were the most population destinations. Los Angeles and New York were the top two destinations for Asians and Hispanic young adults. San Antonio and Phoenix also were popular with Hispanics, while San Francisco also appealed to Asian young adults.
  • Despite the region’s economic woes and the prospect of job opportunities elsewhere, young adults in Appalachia were less likely to move far from their hometowns compared to those of similar incomes living elsewhere.

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The reluctance of millennials to move far away is backed up by recent studies showing declines in mobility in the US for the overall population. In the middle of the last century, about a fifth of US residents, not just young adults, moved each year. That figure has dropped steadily since the 1950s, going from about 20% to 8.4% last year, due to an aging population, dual-income households that make it more difficult to pick up and move and, more recently, the pandemic, according to a recent report from Brookings. When there were wage gains in a local labor market, most of the benefits went to residents who grew up within 100 miles rather than people who had migrated.

(More Census Bureau stories.)

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