Investment brokers and housing managers are working overtime trying to understand where exactly Millennials want to live. This group of people, generally considered those between around 20 and 36, are the largest generation in American history. For many years, they've been flocking to urban centers, eschewing cars, and confusing marketers with their insistence on stories and connection, and utter refusal to be interrupted.
Millennials are a huge target audience for any company, so understanding why they're going and where they're going provides valuable insight into their priorities. While for many years millennials have been heading into cities, some evidence now shows that they may be moving to the suburbs, just like their parents.
What many analysts miss, however, is the reason that millennials are on the move.
The Internet now reaches just about everywhere. There are still rural areas where high speed internet access is a work in progress, but most urban and suburban areas have consistent access. Since media, networking, computer access, and connection all now happen in the cloud, Millennials don't need to be in the cities to work, play, or be close to the people they love.
Urban centers are also no longer the technology hubs that they once were. Several rural areas have taken steps to be green cities, connected through the Internet of Things, and those Millennials who want to be on the cutting edge of change may be better off in Kansas than New York City.
Economists debate whether American housing prices are currently in a bubble or not, but what is not disputed is that, in several cities around the U.S., a person would need to make well above the median salary for the region in order to buy a home.
Millennials are often portrayed as refusing to buy homes, cars, or move out of their parents' homes, but for many, they've just delayed these moves. Especially the older Millennials who may be starting families, the picket fence gets more attractive. Traditionally, single family homes are much more affordable in the suburbs than they are in urban centers.
Another agreement about Millennials is that when they move to the suburbs, they want to bring the benefits of urban life with them. Niche businesses are turning out to be popular with customers overall, and Millennials, with their understanding of brand stories and intense connections, are ideally equipped to bring these businesses to customers. From apps that target specific health conditions instead of general wellbeing to stores that offer locally made ice cream, candy, or other luxury items, Millennials are thriving by finding an underserved community and working to bring something special to them.
What cities are most popular with Millennials?
We are seeing Millennials leave the cities that their elders flocked to - Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco - and head towards cities in the Sun Belt, as well as technology hubs. Many cities have a strong population of Millennials, but the top cities that Millennials are moving to in 2016?
First on the list is Atlanta, Georgia. The housing market in Atlanta is affordable, and the city has a thriving nightlife. The hip-hop scene is also very important in the area, which brings in a lot of younger people.
Next is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh was a steel town for many years; in fact, its football team is named the Steelers for the city's history. The area is sometimes compared to Portland, with its active nightlife, affordable housing, and revitalized waterfront.
Memphis, Tennessee comes in third, with an affordable housing market, and a household income that is increasing more quickly than the national average. This is an ideal place for a young professional to make their start, and offers diversified employment options.
With a substantially higher median list price for homes, Boston, Massachusetts, is the fourth most popular city with Millennials on the move. The city's location close to several universities and colleges, historical roots, and job opportunities for those in the tech sector all make Boston a great option.
And fifth on the list is Austin, Texas, with its slogan of "Keep Austin Weird." The city has a 24% higher share of Millennials than the national average, and has tons of start-ups and tech firms. For Millennials who want to work in tech without dealing with Silicon Valley, Austin has been a great choice that just keeps getting better.
Since Millennials are such a large share of the population, where they move over the next few years will make a big difference in the makeup of the United States, including political changes, economic drivers, and cultural shifts. Any smart marketer is watching the movement patterns of Millennials, looking for clues as to what the future will hold.