Suburban fringes in the U.S. are losing their young adult populations to thriving urban centers. Those between the ages of 25 and 35 are delaying — some even foregoing completely — suburban homeownership in favor of the amenities and job opportunities offered by city living.
The New York Times reported New York state is shedding its suburbanites quickly, with decreases in the young adult population since 2000 as high as 63% in some neighborhoods. This signals a departure from the customary transition from city to suburbs, a trend similarly mirrored in California.
In an effort to attract young homebuyers and make them stay, developers are refurbishing the suburbs by buttressing neighborhood centers with more apartment complexes and entertainment venues. But will these lures catch those elusive members of Generation Y?
We’ve said it before: though the suburbs are not going to disappear, they are doomed to remain on the periphery going forward — and not just geographically. Unable to keep up with the needs of Gen Y, suburbia is no longer the default mainstay of American living. It is fast becoming a mere relic of the old “American Dream,” much like mortgage burning parties and ambrosia salad.
U.S. census data shows those aged 25-34 live in cities more often than the suburbs nationwide. Further, the median age in most metropolitan areas is lower than the median age in suburban outliers.
With Gen Y’s comparatively high level of education, many seek the increased job opportunities and higher salaries found in urban centers, where young adults can put their skills to use. The allure of homeownership in the suburbs has also wilted as Gen Y has witnessed the risks of homeownership firsthand from their parents. Thus, young adults are more inclined to rent, allowing more geographic flexibility and less risk.
On top of this, the city’s perks — transportation, entertainment, safety in numbers, cultural diversity and social hubs — are keeping Gen Y’s interest focused on the urban landscape.
Even Gen Y’s self-image reflects this change: according to a recent report by the Urban Land Institute, 39% of Generation Y members consider themselves city-oriented, compared to the 29% who consider themselves suburbanites. Actual living arrangements slightly outnumber these perceptions, as 48% of Gen Y lives in city neighborhoods within or just outside downtown, while 24% live in outlying suburbs.
So, though developers may be able to increase the appeal of suburban living with more multi-unit housing complexes and amenities, suburbia is unlikely to compare to the myriad and ever-increasing benefits of the city. From the looks of it, Gen Y’s latest trend in seeking out urban living isn’t stopping anytime soon.