The Millennial Exodus: Why Young People are Leaving Cities

a millennial in the park

Millennials are sick of life in the city. In the past several years, as urban areas become even more crowded and polluted, a new trend has emerged. Young people are moving back to small towns and rural places.

The Great Exodus to the Countryside

Part of the reason behind the unexpected exodus is the rising cost of housing. It is notoriously expensive to survive in a major city. Because of the limited supply and high demand for homes pushed the price of real estate sky-high, making it impossible for a generation burdened by student loans and stagnant wages to afford a property of their own.

It is happening in Australia. Between 2011 and 2016, the population outside of capital cities grew by 10%. The Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts that the number of people who settle down in regional Australia will increase by 26% between 2007 and 2026.

However, the rising cost of living is not the only reason for the mass exodus of young people from big cities. The same trend is observed in other parts of the world, too. In the United States, a survey revealed that as much as 10% of American adults are planning to abandon city life in search of a cheaper, quieter, and less dense neighbourhood. As jobs become remote, it is no longer impossible to move out of the city without losing their source of livelihood.

In rural towns, there is plenty of land for sale at a much affordable price. They can get a large space without going beyond their budget, and live alongside nature.

COVID-19 was the Trigger

In 2020, a mysterious, highly contagious, and deadly virus spread all over the world and shut down economies. For the first time, people are not allowed to leave their homes. They were stuck indoors as offices, small businesses, and schools close their doors in an effort to prevent infections.

For people living in big cities, lockdowns meant they have to spend more time in their small apartment. Most people did not have a backyard where they can sit down, breathe fresh air, and get a dose of vitamin D — an important nutrient that can protect them from illnesses.

Some felt trapped inside their small apartment. They dreamt of moving somewhere where they not only get a backyard, but a huge expanse of open land they can explore.

And, with everything closing in the city, there is no more reason to stay.

Almost half of all the adults who move out of the city in 2020 did so because of COVID-19 in the U.S. They said that they could no longer enjoy social and recreational activities, they no longer want to use public transport, and they no longer need to be in an office. Some also received pay cuts as a result of the pandemic which meant they can no longer afford to live in the city.

a village in the countryside

What You Can Find in a City You Can Find Somewhere Else

When Millennials leave cities, they are not exactly giving up a lot of things. Jobs are secured because they can work remotely. Moreover, the glamour and the excitement from living in a big city is also accessible right outside urban areas.

Developments happen quickly in small towns, especially on the fringes of a city. People, therefore, still have numerous options for food, stores, health services, and others in a town that has a much smaller population.

The phenomenon is dubbed “hipstubia,” the trend of young people moving to the suburbs in the U.S. Similar movements have been observed in the United Kingdom, Japan, Brazil, and other nations.

The Charm of a Pastoral Life

Millennials saw the world changed from a much simpler time before technology to the present where everyone is seemingly tethered to their electronic devices. This generation wants to turn back the clock.

Recently, the term “cottagecore” entered everyone’s vocabulary. It is a lifestyle internet aesthetic that glorifies life in the countryside. Suddenly, everyone was baking bread, gardening (albeit inside their home), knitting and embroidering, and wearing long dresses. It was more than just a passing fashion and lifestyle trend. It is the longing for a quiet life, an escape from the constant anger coming from social media and the frustration from the news.

In China, the videos of blogger Li Ziqi are massively popular, gaining millions of views. She is a “rural influencer” whose videos often show her doing simple tasks such as cooking, harvesting fruits and vegetables, etc.

Millennials moved to cities because of the promise of jobs. However, the world is changing. Jobs are no longer concentrated in urban areas. Millennials are now willing to settle down in a quiet town without worrying about their finances.

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