One aspect of the Millennial mythos is that young people love cities. They love bike lanes and ethically-sourced coffee and rooftop gardens. Last year, a Nielsen study appeared to confirm the cliché: The percentage of young adults who live in cities is higher than ever. In fact, 62 percent of the poll's Millennial respondents said they wanted to live near a medley of shops, restaurants, and offices.
But it's important not to mistake a preference for an urban lifestyle with a preference for cities themselves. It's true that cities have a generous amount of the shop-restaurant-office medleys that young people desire, but it's also true that metropolitan areas boast many of the highest-paying jobs—which is probably a bigger draw for a generation that was starting or just settling into their careers when the recession hit.
It's now the case that after young people live in a prosperous city for a few years, they're finding it increasingly hard to get the economic foothold that would allow them to leave. Median wages have fallen for this generation almost across the board, which means young people have had a hard time saving money and building the good credit needed to secure a mortgage and buy a house elsewhere. This inability to flee from cities might be masking the fact that many Millennials still yearn for a house in the suburbs.
Leading up to the recession, the populations of 25-to-34-year-olds in big metro areas were declining every year, as young people bought houses in smaller cities. The Wall Street Journal reported that about 50,000 young adults were leaving New York and Los Angeles every year between 2004 and 2007. Between 2010 and 2013, that number dropped below 23,000 for New York and to about 12,000 for Los Angeles.