“Most of the young people that go to college go away and then they don’t come back” you often hear people say. That’s long been the storyline in small-town America, which has for decades bled citizens — especially young ones — to the more glamorous metropolis of bigger cities. But, is it really as glamorous as it’s cracked up to be?
Today’s new data tell us whether key demographic groups – like millennials (20-34 year olds), boomers (50-69 year olds), and young kids (0-4 year-olds) – might be bucking the broader trend of more suburban counties growing faster than the most urban counties. The result: millennial population growth in 2012-2013 in big, dense cities was outpaced by big-city suburbs and lower-density cities and even by lower-density suburbs and smaller cities.
From 2012 to 2013, population growth for millennials (20-34 year-olds) was highest outside big cities. The fastest growth was in the second quartile of counties ranked by density (big-city suburbs and lower-density cities). Furthermore, the third quartile (lower-density suburbs and smaller cities) edged out the top quartile (big, dense cities) for millennial population growth.
The differences aren’t huge, but there’s clearly no mad rush to the cities. But why. Why are young people passing on overpriced real estate and ugly commutes and instead, opting for a spacious house with a big yard and a broadband connection? Because more and more young people are realizing that after their taste of big city life, they can’t say the quality of life was any better than it was in a small town.
For many, the small town has it all: an easy commute to everything from jobs to schools to grocery stores, trees and natural beauty everywhere you look, and a surprisingly economically-diverse population residing in houses ranging from brand-new Mansions to peaceful neighborhood residential homes. (Which, by the way, cost a whole lot less than houses in most major cities or neighboring suburbs.)
Despite its small size, people also don’t feel trapped or limited in opportunities growing up. They participate in school plays, choir, track, tennis and competitive dance. They attend cooking classes, they play baseball and they go to movie nights and they enjoy peaceful walks where a passersby often offers a friendly hello or wave.
Whether they are going to the doctor or heading out to dinner, there’s not a place in town they can’t get to in ten minutes or less. Kids roam the neighborhood freely, and most have had the same friends for years which carry throughout their entire lifetimes.
From adorable, charming local shops to numerous independent restaurants, below are 20 benefits we have found as to why small town living is the place more and more young people choose to be.
Here are 20 benefits of living in a small town as a 20-something.
1. Shorter commutes and less time stuck in traffic. It takes only seven minutes to drive from one end of town to the other, which is how long a commute is to work would be. That means you can go home on your lunch hour and see your husband or wife if they are home.
2. Smaller churches = more intimacy. There might not be as many ministry opportunities or small groups, but there’s a greater chance of knowing the majority of people who join you in worship every week.
3. Cross-church community. Churches in a small town get together every so often and all church goers are invited to participate. There’s more comradery within different religions.
4. Slower pace of life means a more Sabbath-like lifestyle and higher quality of life.
5. Low crime levels create a safe environment for raising a family.
6. Chances are better you know your neighbors — and maybe the entire block. Most have the same neighbors while they were growing up, and for the most part, the neighborhood still has all the same families it did 20 years ago.
7. Small-town hospitality. People are friendly, giving, understanding in a small town. If you’re new to a neighborhood don’t be surprised when you hear a knock on your door to find a neighbor with cookies who will talk with you like they already know you.
8. More support, less competition. Local businesses might not always thrive, but they don’t suffer from as much name brand competition. Around here, the saying is “Shop Local, Support Local.”
9. Quirky traditions. Small towns host quirky events such as an annual Horned Toad Derby parade and carnival. They don’t race horses or cars, but horned toads. While they are unique events, small towns offer lasting traditions that bring the whole town together.
10. Movies don’t always sell out opening night. It’s nice to have your choice of seats at a showing of a popular movie and not have to worry about purchasing your tickets in advance.
11. Lower cost of living. In college, people are amazed that the average rent of a studio or one-bedroom apartment is at least $1000 per month. In a small town, you can rent a two-bedroom for $500 and in some cases rent a 3,000 square foot home with a fenced in yard for $1000 per month.
12. Less temptation to spend money. While there’s always online shopping, small towns tend not to be filled with name-brand stores, so there’s not as much temptation to overspend.
13. “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” Small towns are great for community where most people know each other.
14. It’s easy to get involved. Fewer people in a town means fewer volunteers, which also means more opportunities to lend a hand and volunteer. You won’t likely be turned away if you offer to help.
15. Fewer things to do means freedom to do more. While there aren’t as many places to hang out or events to attend, you have more time to pick up a hobby or learn a new skill and really work at it. (Something which by the way, could turn into a small local business for yourself that could support you or your family)
16. Art appreciation. Small towns are known for artisans and musicians, and local talent doesn’t go unnoticed.
17. More opportunities. While people might think there are fewer opportunities in small towns, there is less competition to do what you love. Kids have opportunities to be on the newspaper staff in high school or be picked up as a freelancer by the local newspaper. (Good luck having that opportunity with the Chicago Tribune or New York Times). You can get work experience that you can add to your resume that you just won’t get in a big town.
18. Traditional values. Small towns tend to have a certain way of doing things, and values are more ingrained. People expect you to be more polite and respectful. There is a heavy emphasis placed on family and traditional values.
19. You can exercise outside the gym. Runners benefit in small towns that have less traffic, few stoplights and hardly any interruptions.
20. It’s easy to stay informed. With fewer news sources everyone is a reporter. If something big happens, you know about it. Whether it’s a Facebook group page where people constantly post events, lost pets and items for sale, if some crime or accident happens, you only have to wait a matter of seconds for someone to fill in the gaps.
Truth is, more and more people are finding that small towns are taken for granted while growing up, but now, appreciate them for what they are. They have everything they need all contained withing their quaint streets and city scapes: family, a close-knit community and small town charm.
The appeal of any city depends on the benefits it offers. When considering a move after graduation or a move in general, spiritual growth and quality of life should be at the top of your list. For us, small towns offer the best of both.