Where Millennials Live Alone
The kids are not all right—or so the click-bait headlines would lead you to believe. There are countless stories about those flighty millennials who job-hop every year, are crazy-obsessed with their iPhone phablets and shell out too much on Instagrammable avocado toast or kale smoothies to move out of their parents’ basements and (gasp!) pay their own rent.
There's more than a hint of truth to that last part. About 15% of 25- to 35-year-olds were still crashing with their folks in 2016, according to a Pew Research study. And that leaves 85% either cramming into apartments with friends or living solo.
The young-at-heart data team at realtor.com® decided to dig into these numbers. As it turns out, where millennials are living plays a big role in whether they are most likely to live alone, as opposed to with their folks. And there's a lot of variation across the country, we learned.
"We definitely see a larger percentage of millennials living at home at an older age than previous generations," says Jason Dorsey, president of the Center for Generational Kinetics, a millennial research firm based in Austin, TX. "They hit the Great Recession, so it’s taking them longer to financially recover. They had a tough job market from the start. And there’s been quite a lot of wage stagnation."
Adding to the generational woes: Millennials have record amounts of student debt that needs to be paid off. It's yet another factor that has helped push up the median age of first-time homeowners to 32 in 2016, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
"It’s more socially acceptable now to delay marriage, kids, and a home," Dorsey says. "There’s not the expectation that you would have bought your own home by age 30."
So where exactly are millennials living on their own (without roommates or romantic partners)? And where have they flown back to—or never left—the nest? To figure out it out, realtor.com's data team analyzed 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data on 18- to 34-year-olds in the largest metros. We also added in rental prices for one-bedroom apartments from the rental website Apartment List and realtor.com median home list prices to give you an idea of the local housing markets.
Ready? Let’s start with where millennials are most likely to live solo.
1. Austin, TX
Percentage of millennials living alone: 11.2%
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,130
Median home list price: $391,900
It’s no surprise that millennials are moving en masse to funky Austin, one of the most dynamic metros in the United States. And even if they are living on their own, don't expect them to be lonely. The city is praised for its great food (hello, breakfast taco!), the arts and tech festival empire of South by Southwest, as well as its thriving entrepreneurial communities.
What is shocking is how many of Austin's millennials are making it on just one income. The median price of an apartment is more than $1,000—and it gets higher the closer you get to the city center.
One reason that many millennials can afford Silicon Hills, as the Texas capital is known, is due to the influx of tech startups and other related firms. The alluring combo of higher incomes and a lower cost of living has led many to choose the city over other tech hubs.
"More and more young people have higher-salary jobs based out of the [San Francisco] Bay Area, Chicago, or New York, and telecommute from Austin, because of the quality of life," says local real estate broker Mark Strub of Strub Residential. "It really is that cool."
2. Omaha, NE
Percentage of millennials living alone: 10.4%
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $759
Median home list price: $269,700
Yes, Nebraska—you got a problem with that? The city offers affordable rents for those just starting out, and even buying a home is within reach. Plus it boasts thriving arts, restaurant, and indie music scenes. It's home to Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway company, so we're not exactly talking about the middle of nowhere.
The city even has a decent coolness quotient. Local indie rock bands like Cursive have produced albums with Saddle Creek Records, a homegrown record label founded in part by Omaha-native Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. The city's craft beer industry is also gaining momentum, hailed by Thrillist as one of the “10 Untapped Beer Cities Poised to Blow Up.”
Percentage of millennials living alone: 10.4%
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $719
Median home list price: $234,700
Plenty of the roughly 27,000 students who attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee stick around after graduation. And why not? Milwaukee offers many of the same amenities as nearby Chicago (about an hour and a half away), and the housing is just a fraction of the price.
For example, a brand-new, 1,200 square-foot apartment in downtown Milwaukee runs $1,500 to $1,700 a month in rent, says local Realtor® Betsy Wilson Head of Realty Executives. Those a bit more flush with cash can purchase a home in good shape for $150,000 to $175,000.
Plus, millennials don't need to break the bank to have a good time. Idyllic Lake Michigan supports a large sailing community. The Milwaukee Arts Museum is one of the largest in the country, with nearly 25,000 pieces of art. And there are tons of free activities going on around town.
"Every night in summer, [there's a] free concert somewhere," says Wilson Head.
Percentage of millennials living alone: 10.2%
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $743
Median home list price: $175,000
Once the prime exemplar of the decline in cities in the Rust Belt, Pittsburgh has made a big comeback in recent years—especially among savvy twentysomethings. They've helped propel Steel Town into a new era of prosperity, driven by the growing tech industry and management services.
The city has new art spaces, parks, bike trails, restaurants, bars, and social events, while maintaining the best parts of its old, industrial vibe. Plenty of historic factories have been renovated into reasonably priced housing with the authentic urban, loft vibe that many millennials adore. House party!
5. Albany, NY
Percentage of millennials living alone: 10.1%
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $870
Median home list price: $269,900
New York’s state capital has embraced the tech industry, attracting companies like IBM and GlobalFoundries. This has helped retain local university graduates and lure millennials from other metros. That influx of young folk has laid the groundwork for a burgeoning cultural scene that has repurposed formerly abandoned industrial districts and launched a downtown renaissance.
"The reason why Albany is so attractive is because it's affordable," says local real estate broker Anthony Gucciardo of the Gucciardo Real Estate Group. Three-bedroom, two-bathroom houses rent for about $2,000 a month.
"The only people here who are likely to have roommates are those still in college," he says.
Now, ready for home-cooked meals? Let’s look at where millennials are most likely to shack up with Mom and Dad.
1. McAllen, TX
Percentage of millennials living with parents: 51.8%
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $620
Median home list price: $189,300
There are two main reasons why millennials stick around their family abodes in McAllen, which sits on the U.S.-Mexico border: They don't make enough money to move out, and even if they could, their families may not want them to. Unlike larger cities in the Lone Star State, the area lacks good-paying, professional jobs. That makes it hard to afford to live on one's own.
Plus, many of the city's close-knit families prefer to pool limited resources by living together under one roof, until major life events like marriage or childbirth.
2. Oxnard, CA
Percentage of millennials living with parents: 45.8%
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,210
Median home list price: $699,000
The sky-high prices in California make it hard for just about everyone, regardless of their age, to make it on just one income. What puts Oxnard on this list is that twentysomethings are simply fleeing because it doesn't have enough high-paying jobs to keep up with the increasing home prices.
However, this bucolic surf town is within reach of western Los Angeles—about an hour and a half away by car or train. That means millennials might be able to commute to the City of Angels a few days a week and then come home to dear old Mom and Dad.
3. El Paso, TX
Percentage of millennials living with parents: 45.6%
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $681
Median home list price: $166,700
El Paso has a lot in common with McAllen. It also lies along the U.S.-Mexico border, suffers from a high unemployment rate and slow economic growth, and is seeing home costs rise. And it has a large Mexican-American population that is generally favorable toward children living with their parents well into adulthood.
So even though housing is pretty cheap, many local residents still can't afford their own digs. But many wouldn't want 'em anyway.
Percentage of millennials living with parents: 45.2%
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,134*
Median home list price: $725,000
Many millennials want to live on their own in coastal Bridgeport, but there aren't enough homes to go around—especially in the right price range.
Because of its close proximity to New York City—about 70 minutes away on an express Metro North train—Bridgeport is a popular commuter hub for those looking to save a few bucks and former city dwellers craving extra space for a family. The downtown is also experiencing a resurgence, especially in the Black Rock neighborhood, with bars, restaurants, and live music venues popping up.
That's led to "a big inventory of renters and a small inventory of rentals," says local Realtor Gail Robinson of William Raveis Real Estate.
5. Miami, FL
Percentage of millennials living with parents: 44.8%
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,062
Median home list price: $379,500
Millennials are spreading across Miami like bronzing oil on sunbathers. The beaches, all-night parties, and jobs have made it the second most desirable U.S. metro for millennial home buyers, according to realtor.com.
Even with the influx of young residents, the Magic City has one of the highest percentages of millennials who have yet to fly the coop. Thank the killer rents and rising home values. After college, many South Florida kids head home to continue with graduate studies at nearby universities or enter the job market. But they’re often met with entry-level salaries that cannot keep up with the elevated cost of living.
"I have a lot of clients who live with parents and save up little by little until they're ready to buy something," says local Realtor Giovanna Calimano, of Yes Real Estate.
* The average rental price for a one-bedroom apartment in June, according to Rent Jungle.
Sara Ventiera is a journalist based in New York City and Los Angeles. She writes about food, travel, and real estate for Zagat, FoodNetwork.com, BBC Travel, and more.