Are Cities Like Detroit About To See A Mass Exodus of Millennials?

YouthfulCities survey suggests most young people plan to leave their cities in next 10 years.

A new global survey suggests keeping millennials in their current city will be challenging. Fifty-eight percent of millennials who responded to the survey say they will leave their city within the next 10 years. That just as they become a core tax base — work force between 25-44 years old.

If that’s true, what would that trend mean for Detroit? We’ve seen an influx of young people in recent years, driving the revitalization of a handful of areas around the city. Is Detroit’s comeback sustainable if millennials plan to leave as soon as they have families? What would it take to convince them to stay?

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with Robert Barnard, co-founder of YouthfulCities, which conducted the survey. 

Barnard says the results revealed a few key issues that determine whether cities can attract and retain millennials: affordability, jobs, transit, and environmental sustainability.

“Where we saw Detroit doing very well was in this area of affordability, because it’s obviously in this regeneration phase of this city, it’s just cheaper to live there than it is in Chicago or New York City,” says Barnard, citing data from a previous study the organization released last year. “There’s certainly a lot of opportunity to inspire young people around that side.”

On the other side of the coin, Barnard says Detroit comes close to last when it comes to safety.

“Clearly when people don’t feel safe… that’s going to be a core issue which will affect your ability to keep the people there and attract new millennials to the city,” he says.

Barnard says the news from the new survey is not all bad for cities. He says as young people leave their current cities, there’s an opportunity for other cities to attract those same people.

“We see it as an opportunity for cities who actively are looking to build up the millennials they have already in their city but there’s certainly an opportunity to attract more millennials to cities,” he says.

To hear the full conversation, click on the audio link above.