Millennials Are Moving Less Often Than Their Parents, and We're Not Sure Why

Feb 16, 2017

The Me, Me, Me Generation is staying put.

Millennials, the largest generation in America, again confound expectations, this time thanks to a Pew Research Center report based on Census data that shows young adults move much less often than young adults of days past. Rather than drifting from one quickly gentrifying neighborhood to another, millennials seem to be establishing a community where they happen to be.

Last year one in five people aged 25 to 35 said they lived somewhere else 12 months earlier. That's six percentage points fewer than Gen Xers in 2000, and seven points fewer than late boomers in 1990. Millennials are also less likely to change their address than early boomers in 1981 and the silent generation in 1963.

Pew Research Center Pew Research Center 

Which is a little strange. Today's young adults are less likely to be married, have children or own a home -- the traditional constraints on personal freedom that would cause someone to live in the same place year after year.

The break is quite remarkable. Almost six in 10 millennials are without children, while less than half of Gen X and boomers were childless at a similar age, according to Pew. That may have something to do with the fact that slightly more than two in five millennials were living with their married spouse last year, almost half of those in of the silent generation.

And if you're pushing off getting hitched and having kids, it would make sense that you wouldn't need to own a home as early as you once did. In 1981, 56% of boomers aged 25 to 35 lived in a home they owned, almost 20 points higher than millennials last year.

One would think that those without a family or a mortgage would be more likely to hop from town to town in search of a home.

So what's going on?

No one is exactly sure why. One reason might be simple dollars and cents: millennials may just have fewer economic opportunities than their older siblings and parents did when they were young, at least at the start of their careers.

It may sound pat by now, but millennials face unprecedented hurdles as they entered the workforce. Members of the class of 2016, according to The College Investor, confront an average student loan burden of more than $37,000, which is almost double the amount owed by the Class of 2003.

Pew Research Center Pew Research Center 

Millennials also must endure the bad luck of lugging that historic yoke while simultaneously graduating into the worst economic crisis, and weakest recovery, in generations. Today's young workers must make the best of a bad situation.

"Among all 18- to 34-year-olds, fully half (49%) say they have taken a job they didn’t want just to pay the bills, with 24% saying they have taken an unpaid job to gain work experience," according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey, which also found that one third of millennial respondents said they went back to school as a result of the bad economy. More school can translate into more debt.

What the sedentary millennial tells us, then, is that the effects of the great recession are long and may affect this generation for their entire careers.

One research paper found "that recessions lead workers to start out with employers that are smaller on average and pay less." These workers must job hop at a quicker rate to increase their wages. Among millennials who moved, professional considerations was the big factor.

Millennials, then, aren't abandoning the staples of American middle-class life. They're just taking longer to get there.

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