October 25, 2012 10:38:09 AM
WASHINGTON -- Their lives on hold for years, young adults are now making big moves in the fledgling economic recovery, leaving college towns or parents' homes and heading out of state at the highest rate since the height of the housing boom.
New census data released Thursday offer a detailed look at U.S. migration as mobility begins to revive after sliding to a record low last year.
The latest numbers show that young adults 25-29 are the primary out-of-state movers; they had the biggest gain in 13 years as they struck out on their own to test the job market in urban, high-tech meccas such as Washington, D.C.; Denver; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and Austin, Texas.
In contrast, groups that showed some of the most movement in the housing boom of the last decade (2000-2010) -- working professionals, families and would-be retirees -- are still mostly locked in place, their out-of-state migration levels stuck at near lows due to underwater mortgages and shrunken retirement portfolios.
The demographic shifts, which analysts say could continue for many more years, are once again rejiggering the housing map.
Out are the super-sized McMansions in far-flung suburbs and in the sprawling Southwest, which helped drive rapid metro area growth in the early to middle part of the last decade in places such as Phoenix; Las Vegas; Orlando, Fla.; and Atlanta. In are new, 300 square-foot "micro" apartments under consideration for wider development in dense cities such as New York, San Francisco, Boston and Seattle, which are seeking to attract young single adults who value affordable spaces in prime locations to call their own.
"Footloose young singles are forming the leading edge of the coming migration wave," said William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who reviewed the numbers. He attributed the recent jump in mobility to pent-up demand among young adults who now are ready to "move on a dime" to land a job opportunity.
"We will see their migration rates swell even higher if the jobs become more plentiful," Frey said. "Families, older professionals and retirees will be latecomers; they have more financial baggage and will need to make more careful decisions about when and where to move."