Denver Is the Number-One City for Millennial Transplants — Again

A lot of them aren't going home.
A lot of them aren't going home. Photo by Michael Roberts
Denver has the kind of cool that doesn't go away — and a lot of transplants who recognize that fact are sticking around.

As evidence, consider the results of the new survey by SmartAsset regarding where millennials are moving in 2021. The Mile High City lands at number one — ten years after topping a list released by the more scholarly Brookings Institution about the coolest cities in America as viewed by young adults between 25 and 34. And the latest findings also reinforce a survey that found Denver to be the top choice for millennials wanting to relocate that was published in January 2020, just before Colorado and the U.S. as a whole began feeling the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For its study, SmartAsset analyzed data from the most recent American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, published in 2019, to determine the number of people in the 25-to-39-year-old demographic who moved in and out of the state to come up with a net migration amount. And not only did Denver finish in first place, but its net total of 10,974 shows a difference of 56 percent from the second-place finisher, Seattle.

Here's SmartAsset's top 25:

Colorado Springs scored a solid fifth in the millennials sweepstakes, which study author Ben Geier sees as representative of a trend that finds migration patterns tilting away from longtime population magnets such as New York City and Los Angeles. "Six out of the top ten cities in the study are located in the Western U.S., with the other four in the South," he points out. "Colorado and Texas each have two cities in the top 10 — Denver and Colorado Springs in the Centennial State, and Austin and Frisco in the Lone Star State." (In this case, Frisco is a town twenty miles north of Dallas...not a town in Summit County.)

Colorado's cumulative inflow of millennials comes to more than 29,500 — and the state also saw the biggest percentage increase in the number of millennials, approximately 2.21 percent. "Colorado is the state where millennials make up the biggest portion of the population, at 23.26 percent," Geier notes.

Denver has a lengthy history of promoting its appeal to young adults, as Patricia Calhoun emphasized in a November 2013 post marking Denver's slip to the number-two landing spot for millennials (behind Washington, D.C.). She noted that the 2011 Brookings study in which the Mile High City rated at the top had been touted by the metro Denver site pushing economic development as well as the Downtown Denver Partnership.

In early 2020, metro Denver's bragging rights returned, thanks to the real estate website COMMERCIALCafe, which documented that between 2014 and 2018, the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) saw its population increase by 6.5 percent, going from 2.7 million to 2.9 million residents. Of the new Denver dwellers, the site reported, 17 percent were between 25 and 34 years old, boosting the millennial population by 13 percent in just four years.

Today, Geier calculates that millennials make up 32.92 percent of Denver's population, the fifth-highest percentage of the cities surveyed by SmartAsset. While many of these residents aren't homegrown, they're home now. 
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts