Garima Vyas always wanted to live in a big city. She thought of New York, long the destination for 20-year-olds, but was well aware of the cost and complicated subway lines.
So Vyas chose another metropolis that is increasingly becoming the next best option for young people – Houston.
Vyas, 34, a technician, has lived in Houston since 2013. “I knew I didn’t like New York so this was the next best thing,” said Vyas. “There are a lot of things you want to try when you are younger – you want to try new things. Houston gives you that whether it’s food, people, or dating. And it’s cheap to live in. “
The choices made by Vyas and other members of the millennial generation about where to live have changed the country’s political geography over the past decade. You’ve left New York and California and settled in places where TV sitcoms are less likely with around 20 city dwellers, including Denver, Houston, and Orlando, Florida. Drawn to jobs and overlooked cultural institutions, they have helped add new craft breweries, condominiums, and liberal voters to these again-conservative places.
The US Census Bureau is expected to formally account for this change next week by disclosing the number of population shifts in the once-a-decade reassignment of Congressional seats. The sun belt is expected to receive seating at the expense of the states in the north.
In most projections, Texas gets three seats, Florida two, and Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon one each. Seats in Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia and California are expected to be lost.
The moves have reshuffled politics. Once solidly conservative places like Texas have seen ever larger islands of liberalism in their cities, fueled by the migration of younger adults who are democratic. Since 2010, the 20- to 34-year-old population has grown 24% in San Antonio, 22% in Austin, and 19% in Houston. This comes from an Associated Press analysis of the American Community Survey data. In the November elections, two states that have seen strong growth in young people in their largest cities – Arizona and Georgia – turned the Democrats upside down in the presidential contest.
These demographic winners are almost all in the sun belt, but climate isn’t the only thing they have in common.
“These places are growing not just because they’re warmer, but because that’s where the jobs are and the young people are moving there,” said Ryan Wiechelt, professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
There are other drivers of population growth, such as overseas immigration and births. But as foreign immigration subsided over the decade, and then collapsed during the pandemic, internal relocations have become an increasingly large factor in the country’s reorganization, say demographers.
Places with jobs have long attracted transplants, but that shift was different because house prices in previous employment clusters – such as Boston, New York, and Silicon Valley – rose so much that the cost of living became an increasingly important factor in relocations . said Daryl Fairweather, chief economist for Redfin.
“Since the last real estate crisis, young millennials have had to move to places with really strong job markets,” Fairweather said. “Now, during the pandemic, I think that’s changing – you don’t have to move to San Francisco if you want a job in engineering.”
Many young people still move to traditional destinations like New York and California for careers, experts say. You are now just leaving them relatively quickly and have a wider range of alternative job centers to choose from. “Every year these places attract a lot of young people, but they lose more,” said William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institute, of traditional seaside magnets, joking that his hometown of Washington, DC, “rents” young people.
Instead, places with cheaper housing, growing economies, and recreational facilities have become popular. Colorado was the third most popular place for young adults to move to since 2015. According to Frey’s analysis of early census data, more than 20,000 new young adults were recruited from other countries each year. The state has seen a boom in the past decade as its libertarian lifestyle, outdoor attractions, and growing knowledge-based economy have attracted young people from across the country.
As a result, the Denver skyline is regularly littered with construction cranes. Apartment complexes are created from parking spaces. Because when these tenants have children and want to buy houses, waves of new subdivisions arise in the shadow of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.
With most graduate transplants relocated to Denver and the satellite communities, Colorado has grown from a solid Republican state to a competitive swing state to a solid Democratic one. It’s a pattern that some policy experts expect could be repeated in other states that import loads of young people, even traditionally conservative Texas.
Sydney Kramer is typical of many newcomers to Colorado. The 23-year-old moved to the university town of Boulder in January to begin studying atmospheric and ocean sciences. She could have stayed in Miami, a natural place for someone who interests her and where she completed her undergraduate degree. But Kramer was depressed by Florida’s anti-science turnaround under the control of the republican state.
“The government and politics haven’t necessarily caught up there yet,” Kramer said of Florida, noting that state regulations prohibited the use of the term “climate change” in some of the previous governor’s official documents. “Everyone here has a high level of education and is really informed about climate change.”
“This,” she said of Boulder, with its abundance of environmental and forecasting organizations, “is just a great place for my industry.”
The New Jersey native, who didn’t want to grapple with the high rents in New York City, was impressed with the excitement of her new neighbors talking about hiking, camping, skiing, and the combination of outdoor activities and urban amenities the area offers . “It’s a really wonderful place for anything you can get for the cost of living,” she said.