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Do Millennials Prefer Cities or Suburbs? Maybe Both.

A new simulation may shed light on the living preferences of the largest generation in American history.
Many experts expect Millennials to decamp for the suburbs after marriage and kids arrive.
Many experts expect Millennials to decamp for the suburbs after marriage and kids arrive. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Given every silly stereotype about Millennials, it’s easy to forget the qualities that make these napkin-shunning, straw-opposing young adults so formidable. For starters, there are simply more of them. In the U.S., adults under 40 today outnumber any similar cohort, including the almighty Baby Boomers. As a generation, these 83 million people share a defining experience: neither Tide Pods nor BDE, but the Great Recession. By their sheer numbers, their unprecedented diversity, and the collective economic trauma that forged them, the Millennial generation is set to dramatically remake American society.

With all that people get wrong about these people, maybe it should be no surprise that nobody can say for sure where they really want to live. Researchers have arrived at two different conclusions. One is the back-to-the-city thesis, which asserts that young adults prefer the bustle and diversity of the urban landscape to the fading suburban dream. The other argument holds that, secretly, Millennials prefer the suburbs; they just haven’t made it there yet, or they’re being overlooked. It’s the Laurel vs. Yanny debate tearing geography apart.