Study shows millennials may not be fleeing Jersey after all

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

In New Jersey, millennials are the age group most likely to move out of state, but that’s not the first time we’ve heard that headline.

“Two-thirds of those who leave New Jersey are millennials,” said Rutgers professor Cliff Zukin.

A new report commissioned by New Jersey Policy Perspective and done by students at The Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University argues you have to ask if they’re leaving at higher rates than past generations. What they found was no.

They say rates have been steady since the 1980s.

“You don’t need to be worried about a mass exodus of millennials from New Jersey as some policy makers are afraid of or arguing. It’s just not happening,” said Zukin.

According to the Census Bureau, in 2016, 6.1 percent of millennials moved out of state. But the report says these were offset by 5.1 percent who moved in from another state.

“We also found that New Jersey millennials aren’t leaving the state at any more a frequency than millennials in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and those around us,” Zukin said.

What about the reasoning behind why millennials are leaving the state? Researchers interviewed millennials and found they listed the same problems as other age groups — things like high cost of living, property taxes and transportation.

“It’s just that they’re less able to afford it, they have fewer resources and that’s because of where they are in the life cycle,”said Zukin.

New Jersey does have a high percentage of millennials living at home — 44.5 percent in 2016.

“And millennials are facing that problem more than the other states we looked at,” said Anish Patel, a graduate of the Bloustein School who worked on the report.

The report found another problem facing the millennial generation is student debt. More than 60 percent of students from New Jersey who graduated college in 2017 carry student debt. The average debt is around $31,000 among that group, according to LendEDU.

“A lot of things are spoken about millennials that are just assumed without any sort of factual basis, and what I would take away from this report is that now we have some information to kind of base some of these policy decisions on,” said graduate student Evan Friscia.

The New Jersey Business and Industry Association, who say millennials leaving the state is a problem that’s getting worse for the future of the state’s economy, told us in a statement they are still reviewing this report but adds in part, “We should make no mistake that New Jersey is bleeding the next generation of its workforce with the outmigration of high school students to institutions outside of the state.”

“Even though millennials aren’t fleeing any more than other generations have, they are facing some different problems that previous generations did not in the same way,” said Brandon McKoy, director of government and public affairs for New Jersey Policy Perspective. “We believe this is a reason for the state to invest more in issues that millennials are facing, like making sure that higher education is affordable and making sure that homes are affordable.”