Costs, crimes and commutes driving millennials out of DC

Employers will need to help fix some of these issues to keep millennials in the region, American University study says

Kogod School of Business released a survey about millennials experiences with working in the District and found many might not stay long term because of concerns about costs, crime and commute times. Credit: Creative Commons
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Millennials are still coming to Washington, D.C., but employers need to do more to make sure the generation stays put, according to a 2017 American University report.

Millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – make up a larger part of the population in the District, Maryland, Virginia, – or DMV – area compared to the rest of the U.S., according to the school’s millennial workforce trends report.

Many of the 504 people in the survey – who were age 20 to 30 to best represent working aged millennials – moved to the DMV specifically for work. But some might not stick around because of concerns about costs, crime and commute times. Only 27 percent surveyed agreed with the statement “I love DC and plan to stay here forever.” 

Millennials make up a greater portion of the population in the District than the U.S. as a whole. Millennials make up 22 percent of the District’s population. Source: U.S. Census Bureau data collected by Kogod School of Business. Graphic created with Infogram.

Cost of living

The median cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment in the District was $1,575 as of August 2017, according to data from Trulia, an online real estate website.

The average price for a one-bedroom apartment in the District for the past year has fluctuated between $1,500 and $1,700 on average.
Source: Trulia. Graphic created with Infogram.

Only 12 percent of millennials in the survey strongly agreed with the statement “I can afford to buy a home in the DC area.” More than half, 52 percent, disagreed.

One person surveyed by Kogod said, “It’s almost impossible to own a home in a nice neighborhood unless you move further north, then you have to deal with hours of commuting.”

“It’s almost impossible to own a home in a nice neighborhood unless you move further north, then you have to deal with hours of commuting.”

The DMV is affordable compared to other cities like San Francisco where rent is “out the roof,” Rebecca Moser, 25, a recycling outreach specialist for Arlington County’s Department of Environmental Services, said. Rent is still pretty expensive, she added.

Lucia Colombi, 23, splits her rent with her boyfriend. Colombi, an event planning coordinator for the International Monetary Fund, said she doesn’t know how others living on their own can afford to live in the city with current rent prices.

Long commute times

Traffic is the most pressing issue for millennials surveyed by Kogod.

Eighty percent surveyed agreed with the statement “traffic in the greater Washington area is horrendous.” One millennial surveyed said: “The traffic. Everywhere, all of the time, no matter what.”

“The traffic. Everywhere, all of the time, no matter what.”

Millennials are pushing for more flexible scheduling for a higher quality of life, Tomer Sabor, a project manager at District-based logistics startup Optoro, said. 

At Optoro people with longer commutes can take advantage of working at home instead of sitting in traffic, Sabor said. He said he values the flexible hours, but prefers working with his coworkers.

The study found 42 percent of millennials who telecommute at least sometimes are much more likely to agree the District is a place to stay forever.

Commuting in the area can be ridiculous, Moser said.

Traffic is a major concern for millennials working in the District. Credit: Creative Commons

Moser says she spent about 40 hours a month getting to and from work.

She is now working and living in Arlington, where she has cut her work commute down to a 15-minute bike ride.

Colombi experienced a similarly long commute from Fairfax County, Virginia, paying about $12-$15 a day for parking and metro. Her commute was cut significantly since she moved to the District, she said.

Staying put?

Forty-seven percent of people surveyed agreed with the statement “It’s too expensive to live here permanently.”

Some DMV millennials plan on staying in the DMV for a while, including Colombi, who moved to the District in August,

“I love the city life and I have a great job,” Colombi said. “I don’t see myself moving anywhere else for a while.”

Moser said she plans to stay in the DMV for the next two to five years.

Read the full study here.

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