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TheBSQ t1_jeatsq1 wrote

There was a prediction in the decline of urban populations before the pandemic.

A very common lifecycle in the US is to grow up in the burbs, move to the city as a young adult, then go back to the burbs to raise kids.

Millennials are the biggest generation though, so when they hit the “move to the city” phase, urban populations rose. And due to great financial crisis, student debt, etc. they were also poorer and delayed family formation (and delayed leaving for the burbs), which mean their large urban pop blip hung around longer than previous generations.

This millennial blip fueled US urban renewal.

But even before the pandemic, demographers were noting that Millennials were finally getting around to family formation and starting the typical “return to the burbs” part of the American lifestyle.

Anecdotally, as an Xennial, most of my friends were city-dwelling & child-free right up until they started hitting the “now or never” child-bearing deadlines, and right around 40 nearly all my child-free friends suddenly had kids. Some immediately left for the burbs. Some stuck around for a couple years, but the vast vast majority bailed for the burbs.

WFH has definitely facilitated this, but the crime / unhoused / opioid issues ain’t helping.

When you’re twenty-something, a little city grit is fine. Some dirty needles, smoking on trains, gun violence…it just kinda rolls off the shoulders. By the time you’re 40, it gets old, and when you’re a parent it hits different. Plus, you just kinda age out of stuff like live music, bars, the new hip restaurant, parties, clubs, etc.

That being said, due to Millennials staying in urban settings longer, being more climate conscious, I think they’re more reluctant to give up on walkability, transit, etc. so I think when they are leaving, they’re opting for the denser suburbs with walkable main streets, with transit access into the city, your Ardmore, Collingswood, etc. (Maplewood is popular with my NYC friends).

That, or they’re moving to more affordable 2nd tier cities where you can buy a bit more space, or places like the little artsy towns of the Catskills.

Anyway, here’s some pre-pandemic “millennials are leaving the big cities for the suburbs” articles.

Read those, and then toss in how city issues related to crime, addiction, the unhoused, etc. have gotten worse while WFH / remote work has become more common.

Those trends will only increase, especially as more millennials age hit the “now or never” child-bearing deadlines.

Gen Z will inherit shrinking cities with growing problems. And once the pandemic era federal aid to transit systems runs dry, transit is gonna have some real issues too. 2020s are the new 1970s.


ColdJay64 t1_jeb4ik9 wrote

As I shared in another comment which I think is relevant to your points, the biggest losers were Los Angeles County, California (-90,704); Cook County, Illinois (-68,314); Queens County, New York (-50,112); Kings County, New York (-46,970); and Bronx County, New York (-41,143).

I think all of the "legacy" cities posting losses larger than Philly (though we're obviously in this category too) does point to a larger trend like you said.

Even major "Sun Belt" cities like Miami, Houston and Dallas, all had sizable domestic out-migration: Miami-Dade County, FL (-38,203); Harris County, TX (-20,006); and Dallas County, TX (-20,245). All of this is assuming this data is remotely accurate.

Gen Z is still moving to cities and it's encouraging that Philly is one of their top destinations. We had a higher net gain than NYC, Chicago, Houston, Charlotte, etc. I wasn't alive in the 70s but wasn't that the immediate aftermath of white flight? I don't think things will get anywhere near that bad.