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Fastest-Growing Areas For Young Millennials Aren’t Traditional Suspects


Twenty-somethings have flocked to major U.S. urban centers during the last decade, outpacing total population growth in more than 500 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, according to recently released 2014-2018 five-year American Community Survey figures.

Predictably, the largest numerical growth of people in their 20s occurred in the New York City metro area, the nation’s biggest urban center. There were almost 215,000 more twenty-somethings in the city in 2018 than in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. The 6.9 percent growth during the decade was three times New York’s 2.3 percent overall growth rate.

Social Explorer map showing the median age by MSA for the 2006-10 and 2014-18 ACS. Click here to explore further.

While areas like New York, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco remain popular destinations for young people,, a Social Explorer analysis of the 2006-10 and 2014-18 ACS data indicate that the fastest growth of twenty-somethings occurred in micro areas, urban centers that contain between 10,000 and 50,000 people.

While young Americans may be attracted to urban amenities, obstacles like high housing prices, stagnant wages, and higher costs of living  could be forcing them to consider alternatives, especially in small and mid-sized cities enjoying booming economies. In Williston, N.D., an energy boomtown located in the state’s shale oil and gas fields, the micro area has grown 60.7 percent since 2010. Meanwhile, its population of twenty-somethings has grown 121.2 percent–nearly 18 times the rate experienced in New York City.

Peru, Ind., has emerged as another magnet for Americans in their 20s since the start of the decade. The micro area, only 20 miles from the manufacturing hub of Kokomo, has lost almost 4 percent of its population since 2010. Even so, the micro area’s ranks of twenty-somethings have grown almost 23 percent during the decade.

Other micros that registered large gains in young adults included Dickinson, N.D., another energy boomtown (26.6 percent overall growth, 52.4 percent growth for twenty-somethings); East Stroudsburg, Penn., a Poconos micro that offers housing prices that are one-fifth of prices in New York City, at the trade-off of a hellish commute (a 0.3 percent population loss, 23.9 percent increase for young adults); and Henderson, N.C., a Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill exurb (1.1 percent population loss, 22.1 percent increase among twenty-somethings).

Among major metro areas with more than one million residents, Charlotte, N.C., reported the largest percentage increase in people in their 20s during the decade. The metro’s percentage of twenty-somethings grew 45 percent, the largest such increase among metros in the nation. The Grand Rapids, Mich., metro area was second, with a 38.6 percent increase; Nashville, Tenn., registered the third-highest increase, with a 20.9 percent jump among young adults.

Meanwhile, roughly one-third of the nation’s metro and micro areas registered declines in the number of people in their 20s, especially in smaller, rural communities. The Enterprise micro area in southern Alabama lost 47.7 percent of its overall population and an even higher proportion of twenty-something (53.4 percent decline) during the decade. The Edwards micro area, deep in the heart of Colorado ski country, lost 28.2 percent of its young adults, far more than the 6 percent overall drop in population. Greenwood, Miss., roughly midway between Jackson, Miss., and Memphis, Tenn., lost 19.8 percent of its twenty-somethings and 8.7 percent of its total population.

Among metros with more than one million residents, Birmingham, Ala., was the only city to lose twenty-somethings. Its population of young adults dropped 0.9 percent, even as its overall population climbed 2.8 percent.

Author: Frank Bass

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