Monitoring Millennials in the Capital District and Beyond
Albany County leads the region for the largest concentration and share of Millennials between the ages of 20 and 34 and outpaces the state and national averages.
As one of the largest generations in history, and outnumbering Baby Boomers, Millennials are important to today’s economy. They are coveted by industries with something to sell. The travel industry, for example, has actively sought the business of this young generation, including introducing new products aimed directly at them. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials are far more diverse than the Baby Boomers that preceded them. So, who are Millennials, why are we so concerned with them, and where are they in the Capital District?
The definition of Millennials differs depending on the source. The U.S. Census Bureau has classified Millennials as individuals born between 1982 and 2000, Goldman Sachs uses 1980 to 2000, and Deloitte and PWC use 1980 to 1995. In this report, we’ve used an age range that is readily available from the U.S. Census Bureau that attempts to align with these ranges: ages 20 to 34. This range captures the 15-year definition used by PWC and Deloitte but excludes the 18- or 20-year ranges used by others.
Presently, Millennials include individuals that are just moving out of their teenage years into adulthood; ones who are starting their own families; and others that are well-established. These types of Millennials have different resources and needs; however, they tend to have similar mentalities when it comes to how they chose to allocate their resources.
There are several unique social and economic characteristics that define the classic Millennial. First and most important is that many started working around the time of the Great Recession. As a result, Millennials were exposed to a lack of opportunity while at the same time facing down record highs in student loan debt. Older Millennials may have faced layoffs from promising early careers when the national unemployment rate went from a low of 3.6% in October 2000 to 4.8% at the start of the Great Recession in December 2007 to a height of 10.6% in January 2010. The national unemployment rate has since recovered to the mid-3% levels seen in 2000, but it’s reasonable to suggest that this experience changed a generation with a spending power of $600 billion in 2015 and up to $1.4 trillion by 2020.
Data about Millennial spending has uncovered some spending habits that are different from prior generations. Spending is focused on experiences, adventures and social responsibility according to research. The Millennial generation has also shied away from the housing market. The unemployment experience of the Great Recession, high student loan debt, and lifestyle choices (e.g. desire for experiences and adventures) have caused this generation to avoid first-time homeownership and instead opt for apartments or returning to live with their parents.
Where Millennials Are
Looking at the current population, Millennials between the ages of 20 and 34 make up more than 20% of the population across the United States. Nationally, 20 to 24-year-olds make up 7.1% of the population, while 13.6% of the nation falls into the 25 to 34-year-old grouping. In New York State, the overall percentage of Millennials in both groups exceed the U.S. percentages. New York State has more than 21% of its population in the Millennial cohort; 7.2% are between the ages of 20 to 24 and 14.4% are between the ages 25 to 34. Looking at the Capital Region, the share of Millennials across the four counties at 20.6% falls just below the national rate but the share changes county by county.
Albany County leads the region in the overall share of Millennials at 23.5%. A significant contributor to this figure is the 20- to 24-year old group, which includes typical college students. The presence of 20 post-high school educational institutions, ranging from technical schools to universities, certainly influences this figure. The advantage of this student population is the availability of labor for early-career positions. The more than 32,000 individuals between the ages of 20 and 24 are a component of the 30,075 students across 18 post-high school educational institutions in Albany County.
When looking at the components of the 20 to 34-year old cohort available from the Census, we can see that older Millennials from ages 25 to 34 years-old seem to have a greater preference for Rensselaer County. While it lags the state’s share of 25 to 34-year old at 13.3% compared to 14.4%, it leads the Capital District in overall share. Albany County has a smaller share of its population in this cohort, but it does have the largest total number of individuals in this range.
Saratoga County lags the region in the share of Millennials at 17.7%, but only has one college that offers housing to its students. Skidmore College’s enrollment for 2016-2017 was listed as 2,686 – about 15% of the enrollment for the University at Albany in Albany County. Saratoga County does not have the same capacity for the number of students that the other counties do. Saratoga housing prices are also the highest of all the four counties, which may dissuade financially-struggling Millennials.
Schenectady County and Rensselaer County fill out the middle of the pack. Rensselaer County has a slight edge on the Millennial population by 1.5 percentage points, but that difference is the smallest between counties in the region. While it appears that there may be a slight preference of one over the other, it’s unclear what drives that preference. Median gross rent varies by only $26 between the two; the cost of housing with a mortgage varies by only $36, and in both cases Rensselaer County experiences the higher cost. Commuting to work times also seem to favor Schenectady County by 4.8 seconds, which is within the margin of error and likely making that consideration inconsequential.
Monitoring the Situation
As with any trend, it is possible that over time we could see a shift from this generation in its preferences for locations and lifestyles. It does appear that Millennials prefer more historically urban areas in the region. Mobility may also come into play when this generation makes choices about where to live, work, and play. As this generation ages, we may see a change in its decisions – but at the same time, we may not. What is clear, however, is that the region is keeping pace with state and national averages with some communities are currently exceeding national rates for the Millennial generation today – and that is good for the region as a whole.
 Fromm, J. (2017, November 08). Why Millennials Are The Most Important Consumer Generation For The Travel Industry. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jefffromm/2017/11/08/why-millennials-are-the-most-important-consumer-generation-for-the-travel-industry
 US Census Bureau. (2015, June 25). Millennials Outnumber Baby Boomers and Are Far More Diverse. Retrieved June 29, 2018, from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-113.html
 Millennials Infographic. (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2018, from http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/millennials/
 Elliott, C., & Reynolds, W., III. (n.d.). Making it Millennial. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/industry/public-sector/making-it-millennial.html
 Shin, L. (2017, January 09). How The Millennial Generation Could Affect The Economy Over The Next Five Years. Retrieved June 29, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2015/04/30/how-the-millennial-generation-could-affect-the-economy-over-the-next-five-years
 Bell, P., & Cook, N. (2014, September 03). The Financial Habits of Millennials In Four Charts. Retrieved June 29, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/09/the-financial-habits-of-millennials-in-four-charts/425883/
 The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2018, from https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/ NOTE: Figures for Excelsior College were excluded due to its nature as a distance learning provider.