It's become a truism in the media that young people are fleeing Vancouver.
That's because many of us know Vancouver-born and -raised people under the age of 40 who've left the city because of sky-high housing prices. And this shapes our perceptions that Vancouver is becoming a city of aging empty nesters.
In fact, the growth of the 25-to-39 population in Vancouver from 2011 to 2016 was more than 10 percent higher than the national rate, according to research by Vancouver data analyst Jens von Bergmann.
"Among the larger Census Metropolitan Areas in Canada, Toronto and Vancouver displayed the most surprising increase in the share of young adults, closely followed by Edmonton," von Bergmann writes on his website. "Montreal registered a frighteningly surprising decrease in young adults, followed Québec city, Ottawa and Calgary.
Nationally, the share of young adults rose from 12.9 percent to 13.1 percent.
While Vancouver's millennial population growth was relatively high, the data shows that the percentage increase of 25-to-39-year-olds in Surrey in 2016 was lower than the national average.
Immigration trumps net outflow
A paper published last year by demographer David Baxter reported that the 25-to-34 age group "demonstrates the greatest range" of changes in interprovincial migration, followed by the 35-to-44 group.
Here's Baxter's shocking conclusion:
"There is simply no case to be made to suggest that the increasing housing prices of the past four years are driving people away in any age group from the region to other provinces, as the data show exactly the opposite, that people from other provinces have been increasingly attracted to it, perhaps because for them the opportunities of this region out-weigh the costs."
Baxter noted that in 2014, there were 373,476 people between the ages of 25 to 34 in Metro Vancouver. The net outflow was 846 people to other parts of B.C., amounting to 0.23 percent of this total.
"Yes, on a net basis 2 out of every 1000 Millennials moved to other parts of the province in 2014/15, but 998 stayed here," he stated. "When we add in the net inflow of 356 people in this age group who moved here from other provinces, the net loss of Millennials due to all domestic migration is 490 people: one out of 1000 left, but 999 stayed."
Among 35-to-44-year-olds, there was a net outflow of 450 people in 2014-15, which was a quarter of the net outflow of 1,986 a decade earlier in 2005-06.
At the same time, immigration's effects are most felt in the 25-to-34 age cohort, according to Baxter. And that's more than offsetting the departure of a relatively small number of millennials to other parts of B.C.
"Specifically with respect to the Millennials, net permanent international migration has meant that the 25 to 34 age group increased in number every year since 2005, and that its 2015 population was 18 percent larger than it was in 2005," Baxter wrote.
Millennials think suburbs are boring
In 2013, Toronto urban-planning consultant Ken Greenberg told the Straight that millennials are turned off by the banality of suburban culture and long commutes. Moreover, a larger share of millennials don't have driver's licences than older age groups.
This has heightened the appeal of walkable inner-city neighbourhoods that were developed before the advent of the automobile. Four examples in B.C. are Gastown, the Downtown Eastside, Chinatown in downtown Victoria, and along Columbia Street in downtown New Westminster.
The growing popularity of these formerly dilapidated areas forces people with lesser means into far less walkable suburbs.
“A lot of these people are recent immigrants and do not have cars," Greenberg said at the time.
And without vehicles, they still sometimes have to travel significant distances to reach grocery stores in the suburbs. That's given rise to the term "food deserts".
"It’s not surprising in any political system of any society that I’m aware of, people with the greatest means somehow find a way to get in the places that are seen as most desirable,” Greenberg said.