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where millennials are moving

Young professionals have long looked to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other bustling cities as places of opportunity. But in the last few years, migration patterns have shifted to show that a smaller share of Americans are moving to these cities. And after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, another study also reveals that the majority of young professionals are living with their parents. Even so, millennials have been the largest generation in the workforce since 2016, and as they move throughout the country in search of new job opportunities, SmartAsset crunched the numbers to find the cities and states where their net migration is the highest.

To do this, we looked at Census Bureau data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as 180 cities. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s fifth annual study on where millennials are moving. Read last year’s version here.

Key Findings

  • Moving West and South. Six out of the top 10 cities in the study are located in Western U.S., with the other four in the South. Colorado and Texas each have two cities in the top 10 – Denver and Colorado Springs in the Centennial State, and Austin and Frisco in the Lone Star State.
  • Leaving the biggest cities. Millennials are flowing out most from the largest city in the country. New York City lost a net of almost 40,000 from this generational group in 2019. The second-largest outflow came from Chicago, with a net decrease of more than 11,000 millennials. Other big cities with net migration losses, placing at the bottom of our study, include Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston and Miami.
  • States with no income tax. Five of the top 10 cities where millennials are moving have no state income tax on salaries and wages: Seattle, Washington; Austin, Texas; Frisco, Texas; Henderson, Nevada and Cape Coral, Florida.

States Where Millennials Are Moving

More than 187,000 people between the ages of 25 and 39 moved to Texas in 2019, while nearly 154,000 left, creating a net gain in millennial residents of more than 33,000 – the biggest net gain for this generational group in the country. As a result, Texas leads the study for a second consecutive year.

Another state near the top of the list is Colorado, which saw net inflows of more than 29,500. Colorado also had the biggest percentage increase in the number of millennials, at 2.21%, and though the proportion of millennials is higher in the District of Columbia, Colorado is the state where millennials make up the biggest portion of the population, at 23.26%.

To complete the Western contingent up top, Washington and Arizona join Colorado to round out the top four.

Cities Where Millennials Are Moving

1. Denver, CO

Denver, Colorado claims first place in our study with the biggest net migration of millennial residents, as 10,974 millennials moved to the city from a different state in 2019. Additionally, this generational group makes up 32.92% of the city’s population, which is the fifth-highest percentage overall.

2. Seattle, WA

The millennial population in Seattle, Washington grew by 2.42% in 2019, with a net migration of 6,164 from out of state. This generational group happens to make up 33.86% of the city’s population, the highest in our top 10.

3. Phoenix, AZ

Millennials are 23.23% of Phoenix, Arizona’s population — or 390,570 out of more than 1.68 million. This generational group grew by 1.53% in 2019, with a net migration of 5,958 millennials to Phoenix from out of state.

4. Austin, TX

Austin, Texas millennials make up 31.30% of its population, which is the 11th-highest population percentage for this generational group in our study. The city had a net migration of 5,686 millennials from out of state in 2019.

5. Colorado Springs, CO

Colorado Springs, Colorado had a 2019 net migration of 5,050 millennials from out of state, which is an increase of 4.49%. This generational group makes up 23.54% of the city’s population — or 112,579 out of 478,215.

6. Frisco, TX

The millennial population of this Dallas suburb grew by 9.15% in 2019, with a net influx of 3,516 from out of state. This generational group makes up 19.16% of Frisco’s population, which adds up to 38,419 out of 200,513.

7. Cary, NC

Cary, North Carolina has the smallest population in our top 10, with 171,143 residents. The city had a net migration of 3,364 millennials from out of state in 2019, which is a 9.41% jump – the biggest percentage increase in our study.

8. Portland, OR

The millennial population in Portland, Oregon grew by 1.73% in 2019, with a net migration of 3,311 from out of state. This generational group makes up 29.23% of the city’s total population, which adds up to 191,026 out of 653,467.

9. Henderson, NV

Located close to Las Vegas, Henderson’s millennial population grew by 4.65% in 2019, with a net migration of 3,042 millennials from out of state. This generational group makes up 20.45% of the city’s population — 65,470 out of 320,190 people.

10. Cape Coral, FL

Cape Coral, Florida claims 10th place in the study. Millennials make up 18.21% of the population, which adds up to 35,412 out of 194,504. This generational group grew by 7.53% in 2019, with a net migration into the city of 2,666 from out of state.

Data and Methodology

To find both the states and cities where millennials are moving, SmartAsset analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.

We determined the states where millennials are moving by looking at the number of people between the ages of 25 and 39 who moved into a state compared to the number who moved out of the state. The net migration for each state is the number of people between the ages of 25 and 39 who moved into the state minus the number of people in the same age group who moved out of the state. States are ranked in order from those with the highest net migration to those with the lowest net migration.

In determining the cities where millennials are moving, we considered 180 of the largest cities in the U.S. for which data was available. We found net migration during 2019 in each city by subtracting the number of people between the ages of 25 and 39 who moved out of the city to a different state from the number of people in the same age group who moved into the city from a different state. Cities with the highest net migration ranked the highest, and vice versa.

Money Management Tips for Millennials

  • Smart advice can last for generations. If you’re considering moving, it might make sense to get the help of a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard though. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with advisors who may be able to support your future financial goals, get started now.
  • It’s never too early to save for retirement. Even if you’re a millennial and have years of working left, it is never too early to start thinking about retirement. The simplest option is to use a workplace retirement plan like a 401(k).
  • Moving? Consider whether to rent or buy. You’ll need someplace to live in any of these cities, if you’re so inclined to move to one of them. Make sure you figure out whether you should rent or buy early in the process so you can get the best deal you can find.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com

Photo Credit: ©iStock.com/PeopleImages

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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