The millennial generation stands to shape our cities for decades to come, largely because it's so big: 86 million, compared to 77 million baby boomers. Millennials are just starting to turn 30, and middle-aged demographers are wondering how many of them will run to the suburbs like their parents and grandparents before them.
Now, cities face a new demographic reality: The young and single are aging and having children. If the pattern of the past 50 years holds, they might soon set their sights on suburbia.
"We know young people move the most," says Richard Florida, whose book The Rise of the Creative Class published 10 years ago helped spark the wooing of young professionals to revive declining urban centers. "So capturing people early on in their lives in a metro really matters. It's important to compete with suburbs for people once they get a little older and have children."
The older they get, the less likely people are to live in cities, according to recent Census data. The peak age for urban living is 25 to 27, when 20% of that age group are nestled in urban centers. By the age of 41, about a quarter have moved to the suburbs.
Experts say getting cities baby-ready would entail improving schools, building housing near public transit, and expanding and improving parks. That all sounds well and good to me, but here's the hitch: Demographers say millennials want to bring the suburbs to the city with more low-rise townhouses and single-family homes instead of apartments. So much for that density thing?