Since they were teenagers, millennials have been plagued by stereotypes, and they constantly get blamed for killing everything from Canadian tourism to handshakes. But are all of these stereotypes and accusations fair?
Not according to our research.
We reached out to 500 young adults (ages 18–34)* across the country and asked about their moving habits. We then compared their responses to industry data, and we’ve identified three myths about millennials that we can officially put to rest.
Keep reading to get the scoop.
WHO ARE YOU CALLING “MILLENNIAL”?
WHO ARE YOU CALLING “MILLENNIAL”?
*There is no official definition of “millennial,” and the age range varies between sources. For example, the Pew Research Center defines millennials as adults between the ages of 23 and 38 in 2019,1 while the US Public Interest Research Group includes anyone born between 1983 and 2000 in their definition.2
Myth #1: Millennials aren’t career-minded
The lazy millennial stereotype gets thrown around a lot on talk shows, in public speeches, and among online forums. Those who perpetuate this myth claim that millennials are unwilling to make sacrifices and contribute enough good, old-fashioned elbow grease to succeed. Essentially, they believe millennials aren’t career-minded enough to compete in today’s economy.
Why it’s wrong
Nearly a quarter (24.1%) of the millennials we surveyed said a job opportunity was the number one reason they moved recently. This was much higher than the number of millennials who listed reasons like education (16.1%), relationships (14.1%), and family ties (18.5%) as their primary motivators. An additional 19.2% said that a job opportunity was one of their secondary reasons.
All told, this means that roughly 43% of the millennials that move do so for better jobs.
Packing up and moving to a new town or state is always a big sacrifice, even if it’s for a good job, so these numbers imply that millennials are willing to sacrifice a lot for their careers. In fact, an article from Rent.com suggests that millennials might actually be more focused on their careers than previous generations were at the same age.
If you’re one of these go-getter millennials with a degree in business, you might be interested in our list of the best cities for business graduates.
Of course, these stats alone don’t completely disprove this myth. If you believe that millennials are moving less than previous generations (more on that in a minute), you could argue that the ones who move for work are the exception rather than the rule.
To put the final nail in this myth’s coffin, let’s turn to the second myth we busted.
Myth #2: Millennials are killing the moving industry
It seems that every time a company gets put on life support, someone points their finger at a millennial who just happened to be riding by on a hoverboard while munching on avocado toast. Somewhere, there is an imaginary graveyard that is jam-packed with every industry that millennials have “murdered.”
In that graveyard, one of the tombstones reads “The Moving Industry.”
Why it’s wrong
There are two underlying assumptions keeping this myth afloat. The first is that millennials are moving less than previous generations did at their age. This is actually true. However, according to a recent Forbes article, Americans are moving less across the board—and people under 35 are still the biggest group of movers.
The other assumption is that millennials choose DIY moves over hiring professional movers, thereby keeping money out of the industry. Our data shows that this assumption is simply wrong. Of the millennials we surveyed, 20.7% have used a professional moving company.
This percentage might seem low, but American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) data shows that the national average is only about 21%.3 AMSA based its numbers on the 2007 census, so most of today’s young adults weren’t even included in that average.
So, if everyone is moving less while millennials still represent the largest demographic of movers—and use professional moving companies about as much as everyone else—then it’s safe to say that the moving industry’s woes aren’t caused by millennials (at least not entirely).
Fun fact: nearly all (93.2%) of the millennials who hired a moving company told us their experience was positive. If you’re on the fence about using a moving company, check out our favorite interstate movers to see if one of them is a good option for your next move.
Myth #3: Millennials are too rash and emotional
The lazy millennial stereotype often shares the spotlight with the emotional millennial stereotype. If you watch any TV at all, you see hosts and pundits characterizing millennials as irrational cry babies and hopeless romantics.
This stereotype might just be a holdover from when the majority of millennials were teenagers. They had an emo phase. Who doesn’t at fifteen?
Whatever the reason is for this stereotype’s longevity, our research shows that it might not hold any water.
Why it’s wrong
Only 14.5% of the millennials we surveyed listed their significant other as the primary reason for their move. Even if you include those who considered their significant other as a secondary factor, the total percentage is still below 25%. This puts love much lower on millennial priority lists than distinctly pragmatic motivators like job opportunities and education.
To be clear, we’re not saying that moving for your significant other is in and of itself an irrational decision. In fact, there are plenty of practical reasons to do so. For one thing, it helps you save time and money you’d otherwise spend on traveling to visit the person you love. It’s also a great way to support your significant other if they move to pursue educational or job opportunities.
All we’re saying is that our numbers don’t indicate an overly-romantic generation ruled by its emotions.
Other interesting facts
Now that we’ve debunked a few myths, we wanted to share some other interesting tidbits from our survey data.
Lots of millennials are staying in their college towns
Of the millennials who took our survey, 54.5% said that they haven’t moved since college. This might make sense given that 55.7% of respondents attended college in their home states instead of moving to an out-of-state school. The point is that if you live in a college town, you’re probably going to see more and more millennials putting down roots in your neighborhood.
And if you’re trying to decide where to go to college, you might be interested in our list of the most affordable college towns.
Most millennials are staying in the US
When asked if they’ve moved outside of the US after high school or college (even for a short gap year), only 11.7% of our respondents said yes. We also asked if they saw themselves living outside the US someday, and only 3.4% said yes. This might change over time, but for now, most millennials don’t plan on pulling a Hemingway by becoming expats.
Millennials prefer midsize cities and small towns
When asked what city size they like best, 53.2% of the millennials we surveyed said that they prefer to live in small or midsize cities. That’s nearly double the 28.2% of respondents who prefer large cities. It’s clear that most millennials would choose to live in towns like Arlington, VA, rather than giant cities like Washington, DC.
This statistic was surprising because it’s commonly believed that millennials prefer living in metropolises. Consider this a bonus myth-debunking. You’re welcome.
Millennials have their eyes set on the Southeast
Of the millennials we surveyed, 32.2% said that the Southeast is their favorite region to live in, and nearly as many (31.6%) said they could see themselves moving to a southeastern state. This made the Southeast the most popular geographic region among our respondents.
Only 25.4% of the millennials we surveyed were actually born in the Southeast, so the region is clearly a hot destination for millennials planning an interstate move.
In our survey, the Southeast included Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
We sent our survey to 500 American adults between the ages of 18 and 34. We asked nineteen questions about whether participants had moved, where they had lived, their reasons for moving, details about their moves, and their future moving plans.
1. Pew Research Center, “Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins”
2. US PIRG, “Millennials in Motion”
3. American Moving and Storage Association, “About Our Industry”