Millennials are the most geographically mobile generation in American history. Many of us don’t even have solid hometowns because our parents have moved since we graduated high school. Perhaps you find yourself among the millions whom grew up in several places because your baby boomer parents moved several times during your formative years.
Many of us have trouble answering a very basic question: where are you from? Our lack of clearly defined geographic roots is defining our generation. Most of us don’t have strong accents, instead displaying general American speech patterns. The bottom line is we’re an age group that’s not beholden to regionalism–we’ll move anywhere if the price is right on the career front.
Millennials are voting with their feet and fleeing places that have awful job growth in the pursuit of economic empowerment. Places like Michigan, Connecticut, and New Jersey with their toxic cocktails of high taxes and a sluggish economy are losing an alarming amount of Millennials every year. Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut lost more than 5 percent of their Millennial population just in 2014.
Despite this generation’s fervent embrace of a democratic socialist (read: Bernie Sanders), Millennials are generally migrating from blue states to red states, which have lower taxes, less regulation, and higher rates of economic growth. My generation is also hanging their hat in places like San Francisco, DC, New York, and Boston because those cities have become increasingly important hubs for several high paying industries.
Because Millennials have lower homeownership rates than previous generations, it’s really easy for us to cut and run with little notice because most of us are renters. The minimal time commitment implicit in being a renter means that many of us are on the move constantly. A study by Rent.com claims that nearly half of Millennials plan to move next year (not necessarily to a different city, but they are expecting a change in their current living situation).
A generation of itinerant Millennials is excellent news for employers. They have an endless supply of vibrant young workers who are willing to relocate immediately, and are comfortable with being transferred to a wide array of metro areas across America. It’s becoming relatively common for young people to live in several cities before they turn thirty, only further easing future transitions to newly adopted cities.
Millennial migration will determine the economic fate of entire regions. Places like New Jersey, which has lost hundreds of thousands of people in the under thirty demographic will likely continue to struggle to balance their budget. Net recipients of this demographic like Texas and New York City will continue to flourish as these folks’ spending spurs sustained local economic growth.
The number one hot-button issue in politics globally today is the growing gap between the rich and the poor. What’s less talked about is the ever growing wealth gap between different regions. As Tyler Cowen pointed out in his book Average is Over, the success gap is growing between both individuals and places. As the economy is transformed by innovation, regions are either adapting to the new economic paradigm, or finding themselves condemned to permanent decline.
Where Millennials are headed and settling is a powerful indicator of the divergence in economic fortunes. The sobering truth is that if the young people are skipping town where you live, your region probably doesn’t have a very bright economic future.