Millennials are the largest and most diverse generation in the U.S. today. They are those born between 1982 and the early 2000s. They are shaped by technology; their value family, friends, and community, and while financial and career success are important, they also expect the freedom to express their creativity in the workplace. Other major differences between Millennials and other generations is that they tend to stay with first or early employers longer; they marry later, most taking the plunge in their later 20’s to early 30’s; and millennials are less likely to buy a home in their early adulthood.
When millennials do settle down, it’s usually in urban areas. Millennials almost single-handedly have ushered in a resurgence of urban living, and as a result, U.S. cities are now outpacing suburban growth…something that hasn’t occurred since the 1920s. They are the social generation and prefer to live in dense, diversely populated, urban communities where entertainment and social interaction are never more than a stone’s throw away.
In addition to the desire to live immersed in an urban hub of activity, Millennials also are attracted to socially conscious communities that cater to an active art and music scene. With the exceptions of Washington D.C., and Austin, TX, Millennials most often migrate west, affecting both residential and commercial building demands in those areas.
About one third of millennials still live at home with mom and dad, having been hit the hardest by the economic downturn; but because of their high level of education and career potential, this is expected to turnaround by 2017 as the economy recovers and they begin to establish themselves in more lucrative careers.
To the millennial, the idea of the “American Dream” has little to do with a move to the suburb to the home with the proverbial “white picket fence;” they dream of living in the heart of the city, perhaps in a historic brownstone with character. It is possible however, to draw the Millennials to the more rural areas by creating an urban feel in suburban environments. New Urbanism takes typically urban design principles and applies them to suburban development. These “urban-burbs” are pedestrian and transit-friendly, green, mixed-use, communities with an emphasis on diversity in both design and population.
You might sometimes here Millennials referred to as Generation Y or Echo Boomers (children of Baby Boomers), but the young people themselves prefer the Millennials title. One thing that is apparent is that these young people have a lot of confidence and faith in their abilities and their future. As we watch them grow and continue to come of age, we will be able to better analyze and understand how they will continue to affect the economy and how their values and emphasis on cultural and community diversity will affect the development of urban and suburban environments.