Millennials are moving to America's cities — and not just the biggest ones. While places like New York City and Los Angeles remain millennial magnets, research from the Urban Land Institute shows that smaller cities, from Virginia Beach, Va., to Riverside, Calif., are actually seeing the most relative growth in their population of 25-to-34-year-olds.
Virginia Beach's uptick in millennials — a 16% increase from 2010 to 2015 in the metro area — is no surprise to Bryan Stephens, president of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, which includes Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Newport News. Several years ago, Stephens' department asked local millennials what would make the region a more attractive place to live, work and raise a family. In response to the survey's results, the city has focused on extending a Norfolk light rail, which launched in 2011, as well as developing new restaurants and revamping city centers. "All of that has been deliberately evolved over the past few years," Stephens says. (Virginia Beach has also earned a reputation for being an attractive home for retirees too.)
Of the 50 metro areas analyzed, most urban centers saw an increase in millennials from 2010 to 2015, while 11 cities saw a decline. New York City had the greatest increase in the total number of millennials, with 29,774 added from 2010 to 2015. But that only represented a 2.5% uptick, placing New York at the bottom of the list below.
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Hover or tap circles on the map to see the millennial population change for both urban and suburban areas:
Over the past decade, there's been an increase in the number of young adults in urban areas, largely due to a 32% increase in births between 1978 and 1990, according to Dowell Myers, professor of demography at the University of Southern California. He says that upswing has led people to believe that there's been a real change in millennials' preferences, when really there were just a lot more young people born 25 years ago. Nationally, 21% of 25-to 34-year-olds lived in cities in 2015, and 73% lived in suburbs — a ratio that is unchanged from 2010.
Correction: The original version of this story misspelled Bryan Stephens' name.