Dayton ranks high in percent of young adults who stay; other Ohio cities even higher

·4 min read

Aug. 20—Millennials aren't moving as much as previous generations, and more than two-thirds of young adults who grew up in this part of southwest Ohio still lived here in their mid-20s, according to data from a study released this summer.

Some business and young professional groups say retaining young talent is essential to growing the local economy and remaining competitive, and the Dayton region is doing better than many other areas across the nation at holding onto young adults. This study put Dayton around the 85% percentile among communities nationally for retention.

"Dayton has a unique revitalizing energy," said Carlina Figueroa, chair of Generation Dayton, a young professionals organization. "Dayton has grit, grind, heart and the resilience to bounce back from some incredibly difficult times."

Migration patterns vary among different segments of the population.

More Black young adults stayed in or returned to this region (75%) than their white counterparts (67%). Young adults whose parents had high incomes were less likely to stay or return than adults whose parents were at the other end of the income spectrum.

Other larger U.S. markets are having even more success at keeping millennials, and some community members say this region can do more to give young talent reasons to stay and return if they leave.

Nationwide, nearly six in 10 young adults live within 10 miles of the homes of their youth, though there are significant differences in migration patterns, based on race, ethnicity and parental income, says research by an economics professor and a doctoral student at Harvard University and a sociologist and demographer with the U.S. Census.

About eight in 10 young adults reside within 100 miles of their childhood residences, says the study, which analyzed Decennial Census, survey and tax data for people born between 1984 and 1992 (age 29-38).

People born between 1981 and 1996 are considered Millennials. The study looked at where people lived at the age of 16 and then where they lived at the age of 26.

The research found that 68% of young adults who lived in the Dayton commuting zone as teens still lived here at the age of 26.

The study focused nationally on 741 commuting zones, which are collections of counties that serve as a measure of local labor markets, the study authors said.

The Dayton commuting zone consists of nine counties: Montgomery, Miami, Greene, Clark, Champaign, Darke, Shelby, Logan and Preble counties.

This region had a higher share of young adults who elected to stay close to home than about 630 other commuting zones.

But larger urban markets across the state and the Midwest are doing even better than that, including Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis, where nearly three-fourths of young adults live in their hometown areas.

Slightly more than seven in 10 young adults who grew up in the Cleveland commuting zone reside there.

Most young adults who left the nine-county region to seek greener pastures or who moved for work, school and other reasons and who did not return, live outside of the state of Ohio, according to the research.

Some live in other Ohio markets, like Columbus, where 5.6% of young Dayton adults ended up, and Cincinnati, where 4.7% reside.

Chicago and Indianapolis were the most popular out-of-state landing spots, even though combined they still are home to less than 1.5% of young adults from this area.

Jacqueline Richardson grew up in Miamisburg, and some of her high school friends left and never came back.

Richardson, a member of Generation Dayton, said she decided to stay in this area because of family and community connections. She said her old friends might consider returning if they believed there were better job opportunities.

Richardson joined Generation Dayton, hoping to meet other young professionals, and she thinks it would help to have more local networking opportunities and options for people of her age.

Young professional groups are important for networking, but many people join or attend their events because of the social aspect, said Johanna Hartley, president of the South Dayton Young Professionals board of directors.

"To retain young professionals you really need to have things outside of work," she said.

Though Dayton is obviously a smaller community than Cincinnati or Columbus, it still has larger-city attractions while maintaining small town charm, said Figueroa, with Generation Dayton.

Also, Dayton's cost of living is very affordable and hard to beat, which makes it an easy place for young professionals to raise a family, she said.

Dayton has an incredible arts scene and amenities and it is home to high-quality restaurants, breweries and other new development, Figueroa said.

"You get the benefits of both worlds, a fun active city without it feeling too impersonal," she said.

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The Dayton Daily News consistently provides in-depth stories like this one, tracking the impact of the local economy on residents and workers. See Sunday's paper for a front-page analysis of whether there's light at the end of the inflation tunnel.