Young adults want to live n cities. No surprise there, cities have more nightlife and activity. What is a surprise is the claims that young adults instead want to live in cities because of mass transit, and high-density housing. If those were so terrific, people would not move to the suburbs when they have families. 

Professor Markus Moos of the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo sought to debunk ideas of neighborhood gentrification defined along class lines, so he focused on urban core areas increasingly populated by young adults who have delayed child-bearing and education and economic prospects in return for an extended youthful phase.

His paper used Statistics Canada census data from 1981 and 2006, and focused primarily on young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 in Montreal and Vancouver.

"The research shows that young adults are living in urban neighborhoods that are in line with planners' sustainability goals, such as walkability and higher density," said Moos, a professor in the School of Planning at Waterloo. "Even after accounting for demographic changes, young adults in Vancouver today are more likely to live in higher-density housing than in the past, which indicates a shift toward mor¬e sustainable location patterns. These trends are influenced by housing costs." 

The results confirm findings that Canadian young adults today are earning less for doing the same jobs than previous generations. Sharp earnings declines are sometimes dismissed as resulting from longer periods in post-secondary education delaying entry to the workforce. However, even adjusting for this fact and inflation, Moos still concludes that young adults are earning less than they did 25 years ago.

"Part of the reason young adults are residing in higher-density locations is the lower incomes in a context of rising housing costs," said Professor Moos. "They are residing in higher-density neighbourhoods that cost less because of the small size of apartments. The data still shows households moving away from central areas when they have children. The young-adult stage of life is now the defining characteristic of many downtowns."

The study is part of a larger effort by Professor Moos to provide a more nuanced appreciation of the geography of our metropolitan areas, and joins his well-known, resource-rich online project called Atlas of Suburbanisms, mapping the characteristics of Canada's most populated areas.

Published in the Canadian Geographer.