Life in the suburbs will be very different for millennials than it was for their parents. Over at New Geography, Joel Kotkin goes another round with the “creative class” thesis that sees city-dwelling elites as the center of gravity for economic growth. In this latest piece, Kotkin argues that despite all the talk about urban millennials, Gen Y still very much plans to live in the suburbs:
Here’s how the geography of aging works. People are most likely to move to the core cities in their early 20s, but this migration peters out as people enter the end of that often tumultuous decade. By their 30s, they move increasingly to the suburbs, as well as outside the major metropolitan areas (the 52 metropolitan areas with a population over 1,000,000 in 2010).This pattern breaks with the conventional wisdom but dovetails with research conducted by Frank Magid and Associates that finds that millennials prefer suburbs long-term as “their ideal place to live” by a margin of 2 to 1 over cities […]
He goes on to quote some interesting statistics about the desire for home ownership: according to one survey, 84 percent of current renters aged 18-34 plan to buy a house. Overall, it seems like millennials don’t differ all that much from their parents in their living preferences (one study even found that millennials want houses more than their parents did). At least here, the much-vaunted “generational shifts” between the Boomers and Gen Y aren’t in evidence.But the most important point about living patterns is one that Kotkin doesn’t even touch on. In an earlier debate with Kotkin, Richard Florida (the father of creative class theory) identified density as the factor that drives growth: “When skilled people cluster, they become more productive. Their ideas mate, combining and recombining to generate the innovations that power growth.” The flaw, however, in linking density exclusively with cities is that it’s becoming increasingly possible for skilled people to cluster socially and intellectually even if they live in less demographically dense areas. Physical presence still matters as an incubator for social capital, of course, but techo-cultural developments like telework mean suburban communities are less disconnected now from social capital networks than ever before. Ideas can combine and recombine without ever changing out of their pajamas.In short, when it comes to the Kotkin-Florida debate we can have our cake and eat it too. We’re happy for people to live wherever they want—city or suburbs or “urban light” or deep country—but the biggest development in recent years is that millennials who already do want the suburbs can now go there without removing themselves from the “creative class” economy.