Millennials are fleeing the Midwest for Colorado, Texas, and Florida

Much has been made of millennials, would-be killers of all the things baby boomers love and lovers of all things avocado. Currently around 75 million strong, they are officially America’s largest and most diverse generation and will spend the next couple decades influencing the direction of the country. A big way they’ll be doing that is based on the directions that they’re moving.

A new report by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program called “The Millennial Generation: A Demographic Bridge to America’s Diverse Future,” digs into how this generation is going to change in the coming years, specifically noting where they’ve come from and where they’re choosing to live now. 

Definitions vary but this report defines millennials as those born between 1981 and 1997. What that gives us is a generation that currently makes up one-quarter of the population, 30 percent of the voting age populace, and almost two-fifths of the workforce. No wonder cities are desperate to find out what millennials want and communities focus their marketing efforts on attracting them.

Per the results of the report, however, sometimes it simply just comes down to where your city is on the map.

Using Curbed’s breakdown, eight of the 10 cities with the highest growth in millennial population between 2010-2015 can be found in Colorado, Texas, and Florida. In Colorado, Colorado Springs led the way with 14.7 percent growth while Denver followed in third place overall (12.8 percent). Texas had three cities on the list, including No. 2 San Antonio (14.4 percent), No. 6 Austin (11.8 percent), and No. 8 Houston (11.7 percent). Meanwhile, Florida can boast No. 4 Orlando (12.7 percent), No. 7 Cape Coral (11.7 percent), and No. 9 Sarasota (11.1 percent). 

The only other cities to place were No. 5 Honolulu (12.2 percent) and No. 10 Seattle (10.8 percent). 

So if millennials are heading west and south, where are they avoiding? The Midwest and Rust Belt, mostly. That said, among the U.S. cities with the lowest increase in millennial population between 2010-2015, only one actually saw a decrease in overall population. Birmingham, Alabama lost 0.6 percent of its millennials. Chicago fared the worst of any major city that actually retained millennials, only seeing a 0.2 percent rise in those five years. The state of Ohio placed three cities on the list, including No. 3 Toledo (0.5 percent), No. 5 Youngstown (one percent), and No. 9 Dayton (1.7 percent).

Milwaukee shows up at No. 7 on that list with a mere 1.4 percent growth in millennial population. Perhaps that explains why the city is currently running a $1 million ad campaign to convince young people to move there from Chicago. Given how The Windy City fared over the same time period, that strategy might be more flawed than they realize. 

As for cities with the highest share of the millennial population by 2015, you might expect the cities from the first ranking to match up. There is plenty of overlap and presumptive choices (No. 2 Austin is 27.2 percent millennial, No. 3 San Diego is 27 percent, and No. 6 Colorado Springs is 26.4 percent). Perhaps surprisingly, however, Utah actually ranks two cities on this list, including the No. 1 overall. Provo-Orem boasts a population that is 30.4 percent millennial while Salt Lake City ranks No. 9 at 26.2 percent.

According to the Brookings Institution report, “despite coming of age in the midst of the Great Recession and the subsequent housing market crash, the racially and ethnically diverse millennial generation tends to be optimistic about the future.” Whether it’s employment opportunities, housing options, or something else altogether, that optimism is clearly taking them to some very specific places.

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