Why millennials are moving away from large urban centers

JOHN YANG: For years, rural and small towns
have been experiencing a brain drain, as some of their most talented young people move to
more urban areas. But recent census data has shown that millennials,
those born between 1981 and 1996, are increasingly choosing to live in suburbs and smaller cities. Jeffrey Brown traveled to Montana to hear
why. KAROLINE ROSE, CEO, KRose Cattle Company:
I have to talk strategy with you for a minute. JEFFREY BROWN: For Karoline Rose, it’s just
another day at the office. KAROLINE ROSE: Fall 2020 production sale. You click, and it pulls up. JEFFREY BROWN: The 27-year-old is the founder
of a digital consulting and agricultural marketing company near Toston, Montana, population 108. KAROLINE ROSE: The town of Toston isn’t much. If you blink, you kind of miss it. JEFFREY BROWN: Not a typical setting for a
millennial CEO, perhaps, but with clients across much of rural America, she’s not only
surviving, but thriving, in a place where cows outnumber people. Rose started KRose Company in 2015 and began
using social media to do what her family has always done, sell cattle. KAROLINE ROSE: So we listed them, and they
sold it in about six minutes. And I called my dad on the phone and I said,
I have something. And I was actually the first company to sell
cattle on social media that we know of. JEFFREY BROWN: But her dad, John Rose, who
has been in this business in Montana since the 1980s, was initially skeptical. JOHN ROSE, Montana Rancher: Agriculture’s
still very much a handshake business. And she came home and said, we’re just going
to put them on Facebook or the Internet, and we’re going to sell cattle. I said, that — there’s no way that’s going
to happen. I said, it just is not what agriculture in
the West is. And she said, oh, yes, we can do that. JEFFREY BROWN: Karoline’s success is no surprise
to Ben Winchester, a researcher at the University of Minnesota. He’s been documenting rural population trends
for more than 25 years and says young adults are increasingly coming to these areas for
the cheaper cost of living and new opportunities. BEN WINCHESTER, University of Minnesota: You
can be a doctor in a rural community. You can be an editor for a newspaper in a
rural community. You can be a book publisher. You can be electrical engineer. While not every town will have that diversity
of employment or occupation, when you start putting together five to seven counties, you
have got the same diversity in a rural region that you find in the metropolitan area. JEFFREY BROWN: And according to the latest
census data, millennials are no longer finding metropolitan areas as attractive as they once
did. Collectively, large U.S. cities lost nearly
30,000 millennials in 2018, the fourth consecutive year the population of young adults declined. And it’s not just millennials. A 2018 Gallup poll found that, while 80 percent
of all Americans live in urban areas, rural life is most desired. All this is fueling migration to places like
Bozeman, Montana, now one of the fastest growing small cities in the nation. Dr. Meghan Johnston grew up in Montana and
settled in Bozeman after finishing her residency in Seattle. DR. MEGHAN JOHNSTON, Montana: I live five minutes
from here. My day care is five minutes from here. So I can run out of here at 5:20. I can pick up my kids and go home for dinner
and be home at 5:35. And I know my good friends that live in Seattle
that, logistically, is so much more challenging. So, I think the quality of life here is just
— it’s just easier. JEFFREY BROWN: Dr. Johnston also trains medical
students like Ezekiel Sharples, who has another reason for staying. Nearly 80 percent of rural America is classified
as medically underserved, and Sharples says his hometown of Chinook in Northern Montana
remains without a doctor. EZEKIEL SHARPLES, Medical Student: Almost
everywhere in Montana is like that. All these small towns are either single-physician
or no-physician towns. And so kind of that experience growing up
gave me this drive to go back and kind of be part of solving that issue, I guess. JEFFREY BROWN: Ben Winchester sees a pattern. BEN WINCHESTER: So, millennials especially,
they’re starting to hit the same trends that we had seen in other generations, which is,
again, as you age and you start to gain some stability, that you start to question some
of the facts of your life. JEFFREY BROWN: Of course, moving to a more
rural life hardly guarantees success. BEN WINCHESTER: Well, you have some towns
that — quote, unquote — “succeed” and other towns that fail. And what we find is that really the biggest
differential in communities is social capital. And it is, how well do people work together? JEFFREY BROWN: Another factor, cultural life. Bozeman may not have the nightly high-profile
music and arts scene of a larger city, but it does have Live From the Divide. JASON WICKENS, Singer-Songwriter: Started
with the intention of just creating a place for songwriters to have a place where they
could play their songs and people would respect that, but listen. JEFFREY BROWN: Thirty-five-year-old Jason
Wickens is a singer-songwriter from Central Montana. He lived briefly in Nashville, but decided
to come back home, and now runs a music venue, where national touring acts can play to small,
intimate crowds. So, when did you realize that you could give
it a go here in Montana? JASON WICKENS: If you’re in Nashville or New
York or L.A., it is hard. Like, I would say it’s a lot harder, depending
on what your… JEFFREY BROWN: Harder because it’s expensive? JASON WICKENS: It’s expensive. It’s way more cutthroat. You have to really be a hustler. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those
things. For me, I just — I had no interest in even
trying to make it work there, because I wanted to be back in the culture that inspired me
in my music and to do the things I wanted to do. JEFFREY BROWN: Back on her family’s ranch,
Karoline Rose says she’s now buying, selling and marketing cattle to more than 300 clients
in 12 states. And she has this advice for those who might
want to try making it in places like this: KAROLINE ROSE: It’s really important that,
when you move into rural America, that you get out and you know the community and you
show up, but also that you’re different, and you bring your skills and your knowledge to
the table, because that’s what we need and that’s what we’re looking for. JEFFREY BROWN: For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m
Jeffrey Brown in Montana.

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