Millennials are causing a considerable youth population shift in the U.S., leaving small towns in trouble.
An FKD Feature exclusive

Moving long distances is uncommon in most advanced economies, but the United States is a notable exception, with one of the highest rates of internal migration in any first-world country. Millennials are leading the charge, fleeing certain states in mass numbers and flocking to others.

But where are they going and why?

Let’s look at some numbers.

What states are millennials leaving?

The top states that millennials are leaving include Mississippi, Illinois, Michigan and New Mexico, each with millennial population declines in excess of 2 percent. The economies of these states are mostly small-town rural, and American youth don’t want to live in small towns anymore, favoring jobs and lifestyle opportunities over close-knit feel. Much of the American South and Midwest are seeing declines in the millennial population.

Where are they all going?

The states with the most significant millennial population growth are Washington state, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah, Alaska, California, Texas and Washington D.C.

The last five years have seen a steady influx of millennials moving to Washington, D.C. and its adjoining suburbs, especially Arlington. Since 2010, the millennial population has increased 10 percent, leading to D.C. having the highest percentage of millennials per capita of any city in the continental U.S.

North Dakota has reported an 18 percent increase in millennial population. Colorado is up 14 percent, and Washington State is up 9 percent over the same period.

As a percentage of the total population, millennials are most populous in D.C. and Utah.  These are followed by Alaska with 29 percent and California and Texas, both at 28.7 percent.

Why all this relocation?

In a word, jobs.

Millennials are burdened with more debt and a tougher job market than previous generations have had to deal with. Unemployment and underemployment have been serious issues for our generation, and, as a result, people have had to move wherever they can find adequate work and a reasonably low cost of living.

North Dakota’s millennial population increase has been chalked up to the population gains the state experienced across-the-board as a result of the boom in energy-sector jobs. On the other hand, gains for states on our borders such as California, Texas, and Alaska are attributed not only to job-related relocation across state lines but also from young immigrants establishing residency in those states. In Alaska, the nine U.S. military bases and need for workers in the mining, fishing, and oil industries have reliably brought in new workers into the state.

Additionally, millennials are moving to pursue a better quality of life within their means after college. Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah, was named the No. 1 place for millennials to live by in 2017, with one of the fastest growing job markets and one of the lowest unemployment rates of U.S. major cities. Alaska also has experienced an inflow of millennials after the state’s legalization of marijuana in 2015, and the outdoor recreational environment and lifestyle draw a steady stream of new residents.


For years now, the demographic that moves long-distance most frequently have been young people. Young adults are less likely to be tied down to their communities and more likely to move in pursuit of better jobs or a more affordable standard of living. Millennials are the latest incarnation of a long-standing trend that, by the look of things, is not going to end anytime soon.

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Header image: Adobe Stock


Posted 08.16.2017 - 03:43 pm EDT