Where did the Utah Millennials move to? Chances are it’s near you

Single-family homes under construction in the Wildflower community in Saratoga Springs are pictured Tuesday, July 19. A recent study found that most millennials in the United States haven’t moved far from where they grew up. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Millennials are on the move a lot, but they appear to be settling closer to home, according to new findings released this week by the US Census Bureau.

The agency, in coordination with researchers at Harvard University, found that about eight in 10 young adults live within 100 miles of where they grew up, including nearly six in 10 who live in less than 10 miles.

The data is based on people born between 1984 and 1992, or between the ages of 30 and 38 this year – a group commonly referred to as millennials. The researchers used data from the US Census Bureau to determine where a person was of this age group at 16, then again at 26 to reconstruct migration patterns.

They found that the average person only travels about 181 miles from home, which is why so many people are close to where they grew up. But what about millennials who grew up in the cities and towns of Utah?

Migration Among Utah’s Millennials

The Census Bureau and Harvard University have launched an interactive data website correlating to their study, which offers a complex breakdown of where people travel on a more micro level. It is divided into commuting zones, which mix communities. There are a dozen that include cities in Utah.

It looks like Utah is largely matching the national trend, said Mallory Bateman, director of population research at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, after an initial review of the data,

“It just depends on where you are, but (with) at least that age group in Utah, there were a lot of young adults who stayed close or maybe moved to another part of the state,” she said.

About three out of four people in the eligible age bracket born in the Salt Lake City commuting zone — an area that includes Salt Lake, Davis, Morgan, Summit, Tooele, Wasatch and Weber counties — remain in the area, according to the data. Another 8% still live in Utah, while only about 17% have left the state. The average Salt Lakeer only moved about 165 miles from where they grew up, 17 miles below the national average.

Only about a quarter of people in this age group who moved to Salt Lake City were from other states.

A few other Utah commuting areas are also following this trend.

  • Logan (Utah and Idaho): The average person growing up in this area has traveled 177 miles. About 58% remain in this area and 27% still live in Utah or just north of the Utah-Idaho border.
  • Province: The average person growing up in this area has traveled 175 miles. About 67% remain in this area and 16% still live in Utah.
  • St. George: The average person growing up in this area has traveled 216 miles. About 53% remain in this area and 23% still live in Utah.
  • Vernal: The average person growing up in this area has traveled 152 miles. About 61% remain in this area and 23% still live in Utah.

There are also a few cities that are bucking the trend. For example, Loa in Wayne County has the lowest retention rate of any commuting area in Utah. Only about a quarter of people born in south-central Utah still live in the area, although 63% still live in Utah.

Neighboring Richfield had a similar trend, with 38% remaining in the area, while 47% remained in the state.

Then there’s Moab, where the average person growing up in the area has traveled 248 miles. Only about 42% remain in this commuting zone, although 26% still live in Utah. It’s similar to Cortez, Colorado, which includes another part of southeastern Utah. About 43% born in this region still live in the region, although another third still live in Colorado or Utah.

Some cities mix trends. A person growing up in the Flagstaff, Arizona area, which includes parts of southern Utah, walked about 292 miles, which is well above the national average. However, nearly half of the people who grew up in the area still live there, and more than three-quarters still live in Arizona or Utah.

Rock Springs, Wyoming, which also includes parts of Utah, has a similar pattern. The average person has traveled 249 miles, although nearly half still reside in the area and another quarter live in Utah or Wyoming.

In Price, the average person only traveled 180 miles, just below average, but only 42% stays in the Price zone. The average distance is lower because an additional 42% stayed in Utah.

Other interesting migration models

It’s unclear why millennials moved the way they did, although the Gardner Policy Institute has previously studied Utah’s migration patterns. They found that people moved around a lot because of different education or job opportunities, Bateman said.

She adds that income and race/ethnicity can also factor into migration.

“In Salt Lake, if your parents were in the top 20% (income bracket), you were more likely to stay in town or stay in the area,” Bateman said.

When millennials move, it seems they’ve been drawn to big cities. New York City, with about 3.2% of movers, was the most common destination to which people moved outside their own community area, followed by Los Angeles (2.6%), Washington, DC (2.2%), Atlanta (1.9%) and Seattle (1.8%).

In the case of Utah, those who moved tended to go to major cities in the West, including Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The Grand Junction, Colorado commuter area was also a popular draw, especially for those who grew up in central and eastern Utah.

Contributor: Allie Litzinger

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Carter Williams is an award-winning journalist who covers general news, the outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a transplant from Utah via Rochester, New York.

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