Move to the City, Young Man, Move to the City

Image credit: StatChat
Image credit: StatChat

Virginians are most likely to move to another jurisdiction when they reach age 18 and head to college and again as they establish themselves in the job market. As they grow older and sink personal and professional roots in a community, their proclivity for moving steadily declines. Only when Virginians hit retirement age does the trend line level off. The pattern is shown clearly in the chart above, taken from Hamilton Lombard’s latest blog post on the StatChat blog.

Equally interesting is Lombard’s map showing where young people (15 to 24 years old) are moving from, and where they’re moving to. No surprise here: They’re moving from rural and suburban counties to college towns and urban-core jurisdictions.

Image credit: StatChat. Click for larger image.

What does that mean for public policy in Virginia? Writes Lombard:

The rise in college attendance rates and the common need to move to large urban centers for graduates to find jobs are both likely helping drive the increasing flow of young adults into Virginia’s urban areas and communities with universities. The inflow of young adults into Virginia’s cities has boosted their workforce noticeably and helped support the revival in growth that many cities in Virginia are experiencing. But as an increasing share of young adults have remained in cities after starting families, it has also forced many urban localities, such as Arlington and Falls Church, to reevaluate their long-term planning as demand for housing and school spaces have surged.

Conversely, he writes, “A smaller working age population has typically also meant fewer families with children in rural counties, often slowing population growth and in many cases causing population decline.”

If there is a consolation for rural counties, the outflow of young people is offset to some degree by an influx of retirement-age Virginians. As Lombard speculates: “Many the older people that rural counties are attracting are likely the same ones that moved away for college or work decades ago.”


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5 responses to “Move to the City, Young Man, Move to the City”

  1. Cville Resident Avatar
    Cville Resident

    I’m glad to see this post. I’ve been sounding the alarm for years. We are heading towards an Armageddon in the next recession. At some point, the Urban Crescent is going to stop playing piggy bank for dying rural areas.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    well as they say – your own experience may be different…

    but first – consider that the best way for urban to reduce subsidizing rural areas is for them to provide the money to get their kids a solid enough education so they can go to college and from there to where the jobs are – leaving behind fewer people who rely on entitlements.

    but back to the urban settlement pattern conundrum.

    Millennials are putting off having kids or having them and staying urban – but the Northern Va area is proof positive that a great number of folks are STILL moving to the suburbs of Loudoun, Fredericksburg and other outer ring localities to single family subdivision homes and don’t be fooled – the tide is still quite strong – so strong that VDOT is putting express tolls on I-95 and I-66 to encourage SOV to HOV.

    There’s also another lesser know but real phenomena and it involves first generation rural-to-urban folks – getting to retirement age – selling their homes and moving to the suburbs to a single family subdivision home still close enough to the urban so they can see their kids and grandkids.

    Eventually as the kids get older and their kids grow up and the grandparents get older – the grand parents move into assisted care facilities and their sons/daughter into their homes in the suburbs – and then they become commuters to their career jobs in NoVa.

    the flow of commuters in the Fredericksburg Area has never been bigger. Every year the flow adds cars.

    I believe we have some other DC -VA area correspondents here like Acbar and others who might also have experiences to share.

    From down in Fredericksburg – we do not see our area shrinking and NoVa consolidating… we see the Fredericksburg area continuing to grow and swell – as well as the number of commuters.

    I don’t know if that type of thing is going on in Cville, Richmond, Hampton but if others here have knowledge, please share it.

  3. I’ve lived far inside the Beltway for all of my 40 years in NoVa. We paid the cost price gladly, to lessen the commuting time, although we couldn’t afford Old Town Alexandria or greater Georgetown. The attractions of the inner suburbs (e.g. Arlington) also included older homes to renovate, older neighborhoods with a richness and diversity and history and walkability and nightlife that did not exist in the exurbs, yet with relative safety and good schools. If I were making those choices today I’d surely look hard at the large swaths of the City and Alexandria and south Arlington that have gentrified since the 1980s.

    But, LarryG, you are correct, the traffic in Stafford County only gets worse. I think many more of the demographic Jim is highlighting would consider the City today but there are other considerations: some young people don’t want the young-persons lifestyle, some have never lived in an older neighborhood and are intimidated by it; but, most emphatically, urban life can be expensive today, out of reach if you don’t have a pretty good-paying job.

    Do those young people that are attracted to but can’t afford DC simply move to the outer ‘burbs and contribute to that congestion you see there? I think it’s only as a last resort. Those young folks look around and there are newly-discovered, neat old-town environments in places like Culpeper and Fredericksburg and Staunton let alone Richmond so they go there and look for a job. Maybe when they pair off and start thinking about kids the exurbs offer inescapably greater value, but the talk I hear is that moving there means a reluctant retreat from the perceived advantages of urban life, not a positive embracing of something better in the ‘burbs (other than lower cost).

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    I brought my first and only urban starter home in 1972 for $31, 000. Today that same home cost more than $1,000.000 to buy. Yes $Million+ to buy.

    Forget what you read. Forget real honest to goodness urban living for the foreseeable future for all except for the very rich owners, and the very young group renters, and the poor.

    This need not be our destiny. Witness Courthouse to Ballston.

    But it is the chronic result of gross local government dysfunction that since the late 1960s has combined with the bad intentions and the local power of the NIMBYs who “Already Got Mine.”

  5. People go where the jobs are. This map is great, and the next layer of data would be to compare influx of residents to comparable areas in Virginia; how do migration rates in to Richmond compare to migration rates in to a similarly sized MSA in another state?

    Don’t have data to relay here, but while we used to count on retirees moving to simpler digs and trading down to areas with lower cost of living, we’ve now seen decade of mini-trend for retirees to move into urban areas where cost of living may be higher but they can rely on public transportation, good/close access to medicine, easy activities close at hand (cultural, social).

    Retiree interest in college towns is kind of hybrid of meeting those same interests but while those college towns used to cost less, now most of them have spiraling real estate costs. Good luck retiring to Charlottesville or Winston-Salem.

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