NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Boomers Pick Small Towns over Big Cities

August 23, 2011

The longstanding notion that baby boomers will desert their suburban communities for the bright city lights is failing.  Indeed, the data shows something else, say Joel Kotkin, executive editor of, and Wendell Cox, an adjunct scholar with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

  • The migration by this cohort in the past 10 years indicates a 10.3 percent decline among core city dwellers, a loss of some 1.3 million people over the past decade.
  • The loss of boomers from affluent urban areas in places like Chicago and New York is partly due to a number of factors, including the economic downturn and the more active lifestyles of boomers who are working later than ever.
  • The research also seems to indicate that there is a growing anti-urban bias among boomers.

Many people over age 55 have a preference to stay or relocate in places that are less crowded and congested.  Furthermore, most are reluctant to give up their cars and many are less able to walk than drive.  This may explain why most retirement communities end up on the urban fringe or farther.  Aging boomers and seniors also seem to be moving to smaller towns.

  • The "young and restless" may head to suburbs, particularly in the lower-cost Sun Belt cities, but some older Americans appear headed to even less densely populated regions.
  • Over the past decade over 1 million aging boomers and seniors moved to smaller cities and rural locations from suburban or urban locations.

What do these trends suggest for the future of our communities and real estate?  For one, the big opportunities for selling to aging boomers will remain primarily in the suburbs and some select rural locations.  It can also be expected that new senior citizens will move to more affordable places close to their children.

Source: Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox, "Biggest Boomer Towns," New Geography, August 12, 2011.

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