The Many Dimensions of Change in Boston, Day 1: Millennial Movement in Boston


Where are Millennials choosing to live? Policymakers, planners, and researchers have all asked this question, but the BARI team set out to identify where Massachusetts Millennials are concentrating using the recently released 2012-2016 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

While sources vary on the exact timeline, the Millennial generation is usually defined as all persons born between 1980 and 2000. [1] They are the generation succeeding the Baby Boomers and Generation X. They have also recently caused a stir in the media for being characteristically different from previous generations in terms of their ideals and preferences. No where is this more evident than in the housing market. One theory is that Millennials have snubbed the typical “American Dream” of owning a suburban home in favor of city living.[2] The BARI team chose to test this theory by identifying neighborhoods with above average[3] concentrations of home-buying aged or “older” Millennials (25 to 34-year-olds). We then compared the neighborhood characteristics of older Millennials with the rest of the state.


To understand the movement of 25 to 34-year-olds in 2012-2016, we first identified their location when they were college-aged or 18 to 24-years old. We used the 2007-2011 estimates of the American Community Survey to map census tracts with above average concentrations of “younger” Millennials (this map is available on BARI’s Boston Research Map as part of the “American Community Survey” layer). As predicted, the census tracts with above average concentrations of 18 to 24-year-olds clustered around colleges and universities across the state.



Using the 2012-2016 estimates of the American Community Survey, we then mapped the census tracts with above average concentrations of 25 to 34-year-olds (this map is available on the Boston Research Map as part of the “American Community Survey” layer) [4]. Interestingly, we found that the concentration of older Millennials clustered around major towns and cities rather than colleges and universities.



Our comparison of neighborhood characteristics supported our visual findings. Compared to the rest of the state, census tracts with above average concentrations of 25 to 34-year-olds are more densely populated (21,841 vs. 5,362 persons per square mile), are less White (63% vs. 74%), have more renters (65% vs. 56%), and have higher percentages of commuters who predominantly walk (15% vs. 4%) or take public transit (27% vs. 8%).


These findings support theories of urban living, but they also showed that Millennials are living in expensive areas that make the possibility of buying or owning a home more difficult. Compared to the rest of the state, median home values in census tracts with above average concentrations of 25 to 34-year-olds are $124,323 higher ($474,806 vs $350,483) while median gross rent is $378 higher ($1526 vs. $1148). Yet, the median household income is, on average, $1638 less than the rest of the state ($73,778 vs. $75,416).


While our findings support theories of Millennials living in more urban areas, we caution those who think Millennials are only living in downtown Boston, New York, or Los Angeles. In fact, our visual findings show that while there are large concentrations of Millennials clustered around Boston, there are still moderate populations around places like Worcester, Lowell, Springfield, and Pittsfield. It is up to planners and researchers to find out why 25 to 34-year-olds are attracted to urban living and if they intend to stay.



[3]  We define “above average” as anything equal to or greater than one standard deviation above the mean
We excluded census tracts where 50% of the population or more was residing in “group quarters.” These “group quarters” are indicative of group living arrangements like medical care facilities, group homes, correctional facilities, military barracks, dormitories, etc.



To explore the data on BostonMap click here, and to download the raw data from the Data Library, click here.

Stay tuned for more “Many Dimensions of Change in Boston” coming this week!

Published On: January 8, 2018 |
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