The Great Migration

Millennials and Boomers double the impact


For some of us, moving forward is a necessity. It’s the sign of progress, highlighting our need for change and our desire for adventure. As Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

The question is, where are we going?

At no time in American history has mobility been so prevalent. Growing advances in technology have created a flatter, more fluid economy. From the rise of the creative class and telecommunication to the freedom of empty nesters and retirees, individuals are seeking to relocate to communities based on the quality of life they offer, not the proximity to their workplace.

Much has been made about the rise of the Millennial generation and the changes needed to meet their interests and lifestyles. Despite the well-documented differences between Millennials and Baby Boomers, especially in the corporate workplace, their preferences for the places they wish to call home frame a unique time for community development.

Both groups, at an unprecedented rate, are relocating to urban villages – walkable neighborhoods offering a vibrant quality of life and active social scene. The migration patterns of the country’s two largest generations are driving disruptive changes that both employers and cities cannot afford to ignore.

Millennials, for the most part, are values driven, whereas Boomers are driven by practicality. The intersection of these dynamics are reshaping real estate trends. Many are willing to give up square feet for walkable neighborhoods, access to amenities and low maintenance. Fewer want to spend free time cleaning seldom-used rooms, maintaining a large yard or exclusively driving as a means to get around.

With each move, there is opportunity to make incremental progress toward long-term, meaningful community change. Between 2010 and 2020, Baby Boomers alone are projected to make over 200 million residential moves; individuals are willing to relocate as far away as a three-hour drive from their current residence to find a community where they can age in place. Couple this willingness with persistent trends in brain drain, and communities suddenly find themselves faced with one of the largest migratory shifts in American history. 

In 2015, 84 percent of Allen County’s population did not move, 11 percent moved elsewhere within Allen County and 5 percent had an out-of-market relocation. While brain drain is an ongoing challenge, Millennials dominate moves within Allen County. They are sampling neighborhoods and transitioning from renting to owning. Boomers represent the majority of net new residents from out of market. They know what they want and are more likely to stay put once they are here.

With more than 150 million combined representatives, Millennials and Boomers together account for nearly half the country’s population. Communities would do well to plan strategically to engage the interests of these two unique generations as they look to the future. As they keep “opening new doors and doing new things,” our communities must encourage them to move forward.

Good places serve as the destination for those curiosities.

First appeared in the December 2016 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.


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