We’re the highest millennial growth city in America.
The Monday after Thanksgiving, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney made an hour-long appearance on the WHYY program Radio Times, speaking at length about city issues like addiction, homelessness, trash and development.
Despite the gravity of issues, Kenney tried to keep listeners optimistic about Philly’s future. At one point, he touted the city’s growing millennial population as a pride point. If young people are moving here in droves, the mayor suggested, then we must be doing something right.
“We’re the highest millennial growth city in America,” Kenney said. “With all the things we’ve been talking about on the negative sides, there’s a positive side to that, too.”
The boastful claim about millennials has been bandied about by Philly boosters, but is it actually true? We decided to check.
As it turns out, there’s a ton of research on which cities and towns young people are moving to these days — marketers and advertisers want to know — and most of the time, Philadelphia doesn’t even make the top 10.
A report released in January by the Brookings Institute analyzed population data from all metro areas in the United States to determine which spots are attracting the most 18- to 34-year-olds. Using Census data, the report named 10 metropolitan areas in the U.S. that experienced the highest percentage of millennial population growth from 2010 to 2015:
- Colorado Springs, Colorado: 14.7 percent
- San Antonio, Texas: 14.4 percent
- Denver, Colorado: 12.8 percent
- Orlando, Florida: 12.7 percent
- Honolulu, Hawaii: 12.2 percent
- Austin, Texas: 11.8 percent
- Cape Coral, Florida: 11.7 percent
- Houston, Texas: 11.7 percent
- Sarasota, Florida: 11.1 percent
- Seattle, Washington 10.8 percent
Philly didn’t make the list — by a long shot. The city’s metropolitan area saw just 3.7 percent millennial population growth during the same five-year period, per Brookings senior fellow William Frey, who conducted the research.
“The Philadelphia metro falls considerably below fast growing Sun Belt metros or even northeast corridor metros like D.C. or Boston,” Frey told Politifact PA in an email.
Research from the real estate analytics firm RCLCO backs Frey up. It gave Philly a 6.2 percent for millennial growth from 2010 to 2015 — that’s 11th nationwide behind cities like Pittsburgh, Boston and Miami.
So where’d Kenney get this idea in the first place? To be fair, looking only at the largest U.S. cities, the mayor’s bright-side claim about Philly holds a little more weight.
Back in 2006, Philadelphia’s population was at its lowest point in a century and young people started moving into the city en masse for the first time in years.
With the city’s population in such a historic slump, the relative uptick among younger residents was notable. According to a 2014 Pew report that analyzed Philly’s population from 2006 to 2012, the proportion of millennial residents in the city grew 6.1 percent over that time period. Pew compared that number to the 30 most populous cities in America, and Philadelphia came out on top.
Last year, another report published by JLL campaigns agreed, claiming that in the last decade, Philadelphia had the highest percentage of young people moving in. But that research only reviewed population data from the 10 most populous cities in the states.
So, at one point, Philly’s millennial population growth did top the nation — but that was more than five years ago, and that’s only among major cities.
For its part, the Mayor’s Office acknowledged Kenney’s statement wasn’t exactly right.
“The Mayor’s answer could have been better worded, but he was speaking off the cuff during a lengthy interview on a variety of topics,” said Philadelphia spokesperson Mike Dunn. “A more precise answer would have been, ‘The rate of growth of our millennial population over the past decade outpaces other major U.S. cities.’”
On Nov. 26, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Philadelphia has the fastest-growing millennial population in the country — but the most up-to-date research suggests otherwise. Several reports rank Philadelphia at 11th in the nation or lower for relative population growth of young people. While some legitimate reports do suggest that Philadelphia comes out on top, those reports often use data from at least five years ago and they only consider major cities.
We rule this claim Mostly False.