New Jersey Future, a nonprofit group that promotes planning, has released an analysis of census data showing what some experts have been saying for years: that younger workers are gravitating to walkable, more urbanized locations with jobs, housing, entertainment, and amenities within easy reach. The study also found that, unlike the rest of the country, the population of younger workers is shrinking in New Jersey, possibly due to a lack of affordable housing.
The analysis found some facts about younger workers (referred to as “millennials”) some of which do not bode well for the economic future of the state and especially the suburbs:
Millennials — those born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s — are the largest generation in American history, but in New Jersey their numbers declined from 2000 to 2013 by 2.4 percent, while growing nationwide by 6.8 percent.
Millennials are 25 percent more prevalent in New Jersey towns and cities that scored well on smart-growth metrics, and only 81 percent as likely to be found in spread-out, car-dependent places.
Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976) started the city-life trend, preferring compact walkable urbanism when they were young adults. Millennials now prefer it even more emphatically.
Baby boomers in New Jersey are disproportionately living in car-dependent environments and municipalities that don’t score well on any smart-growth metrics.
In municipalities that score well on all three smart-growth metrics, Baby boomers are underrepresented — they are only 83 percent as common in compact, walkable cities and towns as they are statewide.
About one in five of New Jersey’s 565 municipalities (21 percent, or 118 municipalities) scored well on all three metrics of smart-growth, while nearly a third (32 percent or 201) did not score well on any of the three smart-growth indicators.
New Jersey Future executive director Pete Kasabach says that millennials are essential to the economic growth of New Jersey, so keeping them in the state should be a major concern for government and business leaders. “This generation wants to live near transit, near restaurants and bars, to be able to walk or bike to work. They are leaders in living a less car-centric lifestyle. We as a state need to think about how to attract and retain this generation,” says Kasabach.
Director of research Tim Evans says there are a number of policy issues that emerged from the analysis, including housing affordability. “A number of municipalities scored high on smart-growth metrics and yet are not seeing high concentrations of millennials. A lack of affordable housing options for people beginning their careers could be keeping millennials out of these towns and cities.”