Are millennials today more likely to live in and near downtowns or withdraw to outer neighborhoods? Population dynamics are always shifting in the nation’s biggest cities, and millennials have a lot to do with it, as they are about to become the largest generation in recent history. The expectation is that this generation that values experiences more than material possessions prefers vibrant, walkable city neighborhoods where things are happening. Plus, with jobs increasingly relocating to urban cores and Generation Y making up most of the labor force, the residential areas in and near urban downtowns appear to be an increasingly popular choice. But does the data confirm these trends?
To identify where millennials live and what are the next millennial hot-spots, we ranked zip codes in the 30 biggest U.S. cities by the highest increases in millennial population over a 5-year period, by the largest share of millennials, and by the highest number of total millennials, using the most current U.S. Census population estimates. As expected, downtowns and areas near downtown are clear favorites for millennials living in big cities.
Downtown L.A. (90014) is the top trending millennial hot-spot in the U.S.
Adjacent zip codes 90014 and 90013 in the heavily gentrified DTLA are the top two up-and-coming millennial hot-spots in the U.S., with spikes in the share of millennials of 91% and 60%, respectively, in a 5-year period. While gentrification hasn’t yet fully stepped into Skid Row (90013), a few blocks in the neighborhood have yielded to new development.
On the East Coast, Lower Manhattan zip code 10282 has the third highest influx of millennial population, up 54.5% over 5 years. This zip code covers Battery Park City in the Manhattan’s business district, a premium location for those young professionals who can afford it, as it is the most expensive zip code for renters in the U.S.
Millennials in Portland, OR are moving to 97232 (Kerns/Laurelhurst). The area has registered a 52% increase in its share of millennials between 2011 and 2016, the fourth most significant change in the U.S. The fifth highest spike in millennials took place in zip code 10069 in Lincoln Square, Manhattan, with an increase of 48%.
Denver is lit right now, as millennials would say; the city has four zip codes in the top 20 fastest-growing in the U.S. In total, 3 zip codes out of the 20 are located in Los Angeles, 2 in New York, 2 in San Francisco, and 2 in Philadelphia.
Top millennial hot-spots are mostly urban downtowns
Chicago’s West Loop in zip code 60661 is a hotbed for millennials, with 73% of its residents belonging to this age group. The zip is as close as it gets to business without actually being in the Loop, and has only recently been turning into a more residential area, booming with new apartment developments. As a consecrated millennial hub, Chicago’s urban core is increasingly becoming the location of choice for large companies looking to relocate to be closer to this generation.
But “millennial” isn’t always about big business: the next zip code on our list is 19127 in Philadelphia, with millennials making up 71% of its residents. It extends across Manayunk, a neighborhood known for its flourishing small businesses, wide range of leisure activities and dining choices – in other words, a millennial haven minus the hustle of large crowds and congested traffic.
Lower Manhattan’s 10005 comes in third place, with millennials living in the Financial District making up 71% of the total population. New York is closely followed by Boston with ZIP code 02113 right above the Financial District, and Washington, DC with zip code 20036 (Dupont Circle), also a downtown area.
The downtown areas of Denver, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Columbus, Charlotte, and Indianapolis also emerge as overwhelming millennial-favorites. Millennials make up the majority population in all of the zip codes in this top. 18 of the top 20 zip codes with the largest shares of millennials are in or near downtowns.
Chicago and New York are clusters of millennial-laden zip codes
Nine out of the top 20 zip codes with the largest millennial population are in New York, but none in Manhattan. The NYC neighborhoods with big numbers of millennials are mostly in Brooklyn and Queens. Zip code 11211 in Williamsburg is home to almost 44,000 millennials, the largest of any other zip code in the U.S. Widely known as the poster child of gentrification, Williamsburg is a popular millennial enclave with a creative and unconventional vibe. Other New York zip codes with large numbers of millennial are 11368 (Corona in Queens), 11220 (Sunset Park in Brooklyn), 11385 (Glendale in Queens), 11226 (Flatbush in Brooklyn), 11206 (Williamsburg & Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn), 11221 (Bushwick & Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn), 11373 (Elmhurst), and 11377 (Woodside) in Queens.
The zip code with the second largest millennial population in the U.S. is Chicago’s 60657, largely covering Lakeview, home to around 41,500 millennials. Famous for its landmark Wrigley Field, Lakeview’s attractiveness comes from the relatively short commute to Chicago’s Loop in combination with a lively, young vibe. A total of seven Chicago zip codes are in the top 20 with most millennials, with zip codes 60647 (Logan Square), 60618 (Avondale & Irving Park), 60614 (Lincoln Park), and 60629 (Chicago Lawn) in the top 10. L.A., El Paso, Houston, and San Francisco are each represented by one zip code.
The top trending (and sometimes unexpected) millennial zip codes by state:
- Report prepared by RENTCafe, a nationwide apartment search website.
- Data source: U.S. Census Bureau ACS 5-year population estimates for 2011 and 2016.
- We defined millennials as people born between 1977-1996.
- To generate the national rankings, we took into account zip codes in U.S. cities with a total population over 600,000 residents, in total 30 cities.
- To generate the rankings by state, we took into account zip codes in the 250 largest cities in the U.S.
- We factored out zip codes with less than 1,000 millennial residents, as well as zip codes which overlapped with University Campuses and U.S. Military Bases or contained penitentiaries and correctional facilities.
- Neighborhood names corresponding to zip codes are from the U.S. Post Office and are approximate.
- We defined “downtown” as an area locally known as “downtown”, “city center”, or “central business district”.
- We defined “near downtown” as a location within a 3-mile distance of downtown.
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