Some of this simply reflects the aging of millennials. As Jed Kolko at the real estate website Trulia has pointed out, the proclivity for urban living peaks in the mid-to-late 20s and drops notably later. Over 25 percent of people in their midtwenties, he found, live in urban neighborhoods; but by the time they move into their midthirties, it drops to no more than18 percent.
The impact of the aging process – the maturation, however delayed, upon millennials – will soon become acutely obvious to all but the most emotional retro-urbanist. In 2018, according to Census Bureau estimates, the number of millennials entering their 30s will be larger than those in their 20s, and the trend will only get stronger, with the numbers tilting ever more in favor of the thirtysomethings. Kolko suggests that we may already have passed “peak urban millennial.”
And then Kotkin goes on to try to bust other stereotypes about millennials. Both he and the other side – such as those who tend to argue that smart growth will inevitable win out behind the tastes of younger Americans – can cite some data and make some predictions. Perhaps Kotkin has the easier selection: he suggests millennials will follow the geographic inertia of their ancestors (even if they do have some other social differences) while his opponents are looking for a big break from the past.
But, it is interesting to note that we may only be a few years away from settling this debate if the bulk of millennials are then in their thirties. Unless emerging adulthood keeps getting extended for this group, they will be expected to have made their “adult” decisions soon. Will they choose cities and denser suburbs or will they continue to prefer more space relatively far from dense population concentrations?