We’re seeing a strong push toward urban living, with big cities all over the country experiencing population growth among all demographics. Millennials, especially, are gravitating toward urban areas, and tend to report higher levels of happiness that people of other generations similarly living in the city.
But why is this the case?
There are a number of variables that could be influencing this trend toward more urban living, including generational differences, supply and demand variables, and a simple pendulum swing away from small-town living. For example, check out the availability of mixed use financing. This new availability is allowing for the development of mixed use buildings, which provide a combination of residential, work, and/or retail spaces all in the confines of a single structure. This is highly appealing to both investors (who want more consistent passive income) and residents (who want more convenience in their lives).
But no matter which angle you use to analyze the situation, there’s one factor that’s pushing all the others toward favoring an urban environment: technology.
How Technology Encourages More Urban Living
Consider these technological applications that push people to more strongly desire living in an urban environment (or otherwise make urban living easier):
- Job and apartment searches. Part of the reason millennials are disproportionately moving to big cities is because that’s where most of the job and career opportunities lie. After graduating college and having difficulty landing a job in their immediate vicinity, big cities start to look more attractive. And thanks to the number of job posting boards, online classified ads, and easy online communication, it’s simpler than ever to find a place for yourself in a new city. You can apply to jobs and interview for them in practically any city in the United States, and take virtual tours of apartments so you know what you’re getting into.
- Ridesharing and similar services. Ridesharing is another major tech development enabling easy urban living. Apps like Lyft and Uber are commonplace, and in major cities, there are hundreds, if not thousands of drivers trying to supplement their income by shuttling people around. This low-cost alternative to taxis makes it possible to get just about anywhere, even without public transportation, for a relatively small fare.
- Public transportation and general knowledge. Speaking of public transportation, most big cities have some form of public transport to make it easier to get from place to place. However, navigating these systems can be challenging for newcomers. Thanks to new technology, like public transportation navigation apps and the availability of information online, it’s easier than ever for newcomers to get acclimated to the system. Assuming everything works as intended, just about anyone can feasibly get to where they need to go.
- Investor connections and development. It’s also worth noting that apps and websites have greatly simplified discovery and communication between entrepreneurs, developers, and investors, making it possible for bigger, more ambitious development projects in big cities to unfold. With access to more funding, ambitious people are creating more innovative buildings, giving aspiring residents more options they can potentially call home and inviting more businesses to the area. This, in turn, creates an even bigger push to live in the big city.
- Publication and big-city visibility. Many young adults grew up influenced by social media, and because a disproportionate number of people already live in big cities, images and stories from big cities tend to dominate the narrative. Thanks to technology, big cities look even more attractive than ever—and anyone hoping for an exciting, interesting, or stimulating lifestyle is going to at least consider moving to one.
- The emergence of smart cities. We’re also in the early stages of seeing a push toward “smart cities,” or highly connected urban areas that are much more technologically developed than their small-town counterparts. For example, your city may be developing infrastructure for city-wide, free Wi-Fi, or higher-tech forms of public transportation and public services. These high-tech features make cities much more desirable.
Will There Be a Push Back?
Trends often cycle back and forth, so you might suspect that this trend toward more big-city living and urbanization may eventually subside, making way for a push to the suburbs, or even to more rural environments. That may be the case; already, we’re starting to see some big city growth rates begin to taper off, which could be a temporary aberration or a sign of things to come. It’s hard to predict exactly how or when the next real estate trend will manifest, especially with social, technological, and economic conditions changing so rapidly. But for now, big cities remain king.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant.Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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