Millennials Are Moving Away From Urban Centers — But Will The Trend Continue?

Popular culture and film only present movement in one direction. You finish uni and you head to the big city, ready to expand your horizons and start your career. But more and more, the evidence is showing that the opposite move has become more popular as millennials are moving into suburbia or even rural areas to put down their roots.

This short film from PBS shows just how common this experience is — and why millennials are moving this way. The documentary heads to rural America to see why migration is leading many to a simpler life.

“For years, rural areas and small towns consistently lost some of their most talented young people, who moved to urban centres,” the description explains. “But recent census data indicates that this ‘brain drain’ phenomenon is subsiding as both millennials and more Americans of all ages are increasingly choosing to live in suburbs and smaller cities. Jeffrey Brown travels to Montana to find out what’s driving the migration.”

Although millennials are leading the charge, they are not the only group migrating back into suburban and rural areas. With the rising cost of living, more debt, and a poorer quality of life, it’s easy to see why many would be driven to try a different way of living.

You can see the whole video below:



In the UK, we’ve seen our own migration. Figures from the Office for National Statistics released found that 340,500 people left London in a 12 month period between 2017 and 2018 — and in the past decade, about 550,000 more Britons left London than moved to it. Young people headed to Brighton and Bristol but, as they were priced out of those options, Sheffield, Manchester, Leicester, and Leeds have become more popular destinations.

On the one hand, it’s easy to see why this would be a desirable outcome. Smaller cities and more rural outskirts can benefit from more diversity, more talent, more ideas, and more energy. But at the same time, the largest cities are drained of that same diversity, talents, ideas, and energy. If London becomes a hollow shell of its former self — a playground for only the very rich — its vibrancy will be lost along with the younger population.

Ideally, the answer looks beyond the divisiveness: a more equal cost of living, more equal opportunities, and a more equal draw between cities and rural areas, north and south, east and west. Where you want to live could be decided based on where your passions lie, what suits your personality — not where you can afford. Remote working and more flexibility is a step in the right direction, but mass migration of young people — whether it’s to or away from urban centres — shows we have a long way to go.