Office worker walking down stairs

Conventional wisdom might be that the Great Recession has ended, but millennials are still facing a great deal of financial stress. Between student loan debt for recent college graduates and a job market still in a period of stagnation, millennials are having to make crucial decisions in order to save money. For many in the Los Angeles area, the cost of living isn’t worth the weather.

LA has seen a dramatic decline in millennial residents. From 2005 to 2015, the US Census Bureau recorded a 7.4 percent drop. It has seen the third biggest decline in the millennial population. Conversely, it is ranked 48th for millennial population growth. The decline, which began in 2007 in sync with the Great Recession, actually reversed a bit in 2009 as the economy recovered. Since then, it has been in a steady decline.

There is a correlation with the decline in millennials living in LA and a decline in home ownership (down 7.3 percent since 2005) and median income (down 0.6 percent since 2005). One thing that is on the rise in LA, is the price of rent. It is easy to see why millennials are leaving LA at the rate they are: it’s an expensive city and they don’t have much money to throw around.

So where are they going? It varies. Cities are still catnip for millennials, but that doesn’t necessarily mean metropolises like LA or New York City anymore. Instead, smaller, more affordable cities are bringing in the younger demographics, such as Charlotte, Seattle, Austin, Houston, and Omaha. They tend to be more affordable and have better job opportunities. The job opportunities are key, as Detroit is another city that is seeing a rapid population decline, despite being much more affordable than LA.

LA itself isn’t totally in the weeds; it has been undergoing a decline in one demographic population, but overall, LA County’s population as a whole is on the rise, surpassing 10 million in 2013. It still is a popular destination for many people and there are ample reasons to stay if one can afford it (such as the weather, beaches, and diversity), but if the price of rent continues to rise while wages and job opportunities stagnate, then it’s very likely LA will continue to see a decline in millennial population, and possibly its population as a whole. We’ll just have to wait for the next census.