Am I just a crotchety old guy? (Millennials and the city)
The most recent issue of the Sunday Washington Post Magazine is dedicated to stories on millennials being the source of much of DC's increase in population over the last couple years. It's mostly a series of vignettes featuring various people and the neighborhoods where they live.
-- Millennials in Washington, D.C.
Frankly, I didn't find the package of stories particularly interesting or illuminating, other than the demographic data, which also lists the neighborhoods where millennials are congregating. Although I am glad that the magazine issue focused on local topics rather than on a topic like Ted Nugent.
Of course, given that I know Elise Bernard, blogger extraordinaire of Frozen Tropics, the blog that focuses on the H Street area, I found that feature interesting ("Three millennials try to sell their peers on the District"). Elise started blogging just a little before I did and her example "goaded me" into writing regularly.... and she introduced me to Flickr.
What's interesting to me is that the interest in and willingness to living "in the city" is hitting critical mass, more generally. It makes sense that this is visible in the younger demographics given that they don't have pre-existing residential relationships. They are starting fresh.
But this particular demographic is just another step, the latest cohort to join a long process.
I do think what is most important is the concept of critical mass, and from the standpoint of Everett Rogers' theory of innovation diffusion, we are probably looking at the attractiveness of urban living reaching the "early majority" stage--that finally appreciation for urban living is moving out of the "early adopter" phase, which I would date from the 1970s, while the innovators (or "urban pioneers") phase was the 1960s.
The book The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn by GWU professor Suleiman Osman is an excellent discussion of the many decade process of making Brooklyn a desirable to live.
The point I make is that it has taken decades for the momentum to shift to be favorable to cities, away from being overwhelmingly favorable to the suburbs. See for example the past blog entry "Revitalization in Stages."
Equally relevant is the work by Christopher Leinberger recounted in the book Option of Urbanism. He found that about 40% of the population isn't interested in living in center cities or suburban conurbations, that 30% wants to live in center cities and the other 30% is happy to live in either.
As the city begins achieving that critical mass of younger demographics, and the increase in population helps to support the development of new businesses, the "amenity package" in a variety of dimensions takes on a forward and improving momentum as well. This further will attract new residents to the city.