There's news, fake news, and not news. Millennials not moving is not news, but some still seem to think it is.
Pew Research Center's Richard Fry took a look at recent Census Bureau data that shows American mobility--people moving from one home to another--is at a record low, and he named a culprit. Millennials.
The Census' Current Population Survey reveals that 11.2% of the population 1 and over [presumably less for those under 1] moved between 2015 and 2016. Census analyst David Ihrke writes, comparing moves within county, from county to county, and from abroad:
This is the lowest one-year mover rate reported by the CPS ASEC, which began tracking migration in 1948. At that time, moving was more commonplace, as demonstrated by an annual mover rate of 20.2%.
Now, for the part about who's to blame for this "historic" measurement of economic immobility. Pew Research's Fry zeroes in on the demographics in his analysis here:
In 2016, only 20% of Millennial 25- to 35-year-olds reported having lived at a different address one year earlier. One-year migration rates were much higher for older generations when they were the same age. For example, when members of the Silent Generation were ages 25 to 35 back in 1963, 26% reported moving within the prior year. And in 2000, when those in Generation X were the age that older Millennials are today, 26% of them reported having moved in the previous year.
There you have it. It's Millennials' fault.
Wall Street Journal staffer Laura Kusista goes Fry one measure of blame further. In her analysis, Kusista says that, by all rights, Millennials should have been moving more than prior generational cohorts of young adult households. They were freer. Less are married. Fewer have kids. A lot less own homes. No life baggage, so to speak. So why couldn't they at least pick up and move households, sparking that part of the economy?
Being single, childless, and unfettered by homeownership might logically seem to be reasons young adults can and should move more often. Less baggage, more bag-packing. We would not be surprised, however, if someday social scientists look at the opposite conditions--married, with child or expecting, and in an owner-occupied household that's too small for the growing family--and say those are the reasons more moves occur. They're necessary in other words. WSJ staffer Kusisto's thesis is not only superficial; it also seems to contain a contradiction. She writes:
Many young people are stuck in place in part because of their inability to buy a home or their lack of interest in doing so. For previous generations, moving to the suburbs or to smaller towns often was a way to afford a mortgage. But today’s young adults are less likely to do so, in part because many enjoy living in walkable—and more expensive—urban downtowns with shops and restaurants.
Young adults prefer more expensive housing? There's explanations, fake explanations, and non explanations. You decide on what the commentary above qualifies as.
More simply and more helpfully, perhaps, household formations, mobility, and homeownership patterns among adults 35 and below are relatively in lockstep. Their behavior traces to two large forces of influence, preference and economics. The role of one force vs. another is difficult to un-entwine.
Our 2016 Hive dean, University of Southern California professor of policy, planning, and demography in the Sol Price School of Public Policy, Dowell Myers believes--evidentially--that both forces, structural and cyclical, factor into explaining Millennials latent household behavior.
Want to get a real grasp on what's slowed this generation down, and whether young adults are likely to press the pedal to the medal when they begin hitting age 35 in droves? Have a look at Professor Myers' take on the "Millennial Dilemma" here.
Guess what? It does nobody any good to look at data like this and use it as an excuse for what does or doesn't happen to your business this year or next.
The single biggest questions facing business men and women in the new home construction and development sector of the economy have to do with matters of their own agency, not demographics, not political conditions, not external matters.
Does the business model, executed well, work to build value and generate profit? Also, is there investment in the business model to manage for transformative, discontinuous events that can and will turn economic rules and foundational operational practices inside out and upside down?
You know what? There are a lot of Millennials. Somewhere between 60% and 65% of them will probably own homes, and whether the percentage totals closer to the higher end of the spectrum or hovers around the lower end has a lot to do with how well home builders answer those two questions above.
Millennials have delayed some things, and now necessity will either tilt the playing field in your favor, or it won't. We know that some companies will thrive either way.