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Where do young adults live in Montgomery County?

Montgomery County community leaders want to draw more Millennials, members of the generation born between 1982 and 2000, hoping that they'll stick around when they're older. As they explore ways to attract twenty- and thirtysomethings, from new transit projects to more nightlife, it's worth looking at where they live in Montgomery County today.

Where Millennials live in Montgomery County.
Click on the image for a larger version, or see it without the rankings.

According to the 2010 Census, Montgomery County has about 186,000 residents between the ages of 20 and 34, making up about 19% of the county's population. In a recent Washington Post article about the county's Night Time Economy Initiative, reporter Bill Turque notes that young adults make up a lower share of Montgomery County's population than other places in Greater Washington.

Why is that? Trends show that Millennials want an urban lifestyle, but are often stymied by limited funds and a dearth of affordable housing.

As a predominantly suburban, affluent county, Montgomery doesn't seem like the kind of place where young adults would want to live. However, if you look at individual neighborhoods, you'll find substantial concentrations of Millennials, suggesting a way forward for Montgomery County as it seeks to draw more of them.

Millennials flock to areas near transit, jobs, affordable housing

The map at the top shows Census tracts where the percentage of 20-to-34 year old residents is higher than the county's 19% average in the 2010 Census. The county's largest concentrations of Millennials are along the Red Line in places like White Flint, downtown Bethesda and downtown Silver Spring, where young adults are a slim majority. Notably, these are also the places where walking, biking and taking transit to work are most common.

Young adults also seem to gravitate towards shopping and entertainment districts like the Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg. Even though it's not near a Metro station or major bus route, Washingtonian Center is a pretty walkable area where one can shop or grab dinner without a car.

We can also conclude that many Millennials are trying to live as close as possible to their jobs. Here's a map of where people under 29 work in Montgomery County:

Where Millennials work in Montgomery County. Click to enlarge.

Compare it to the first map and you can see that clusters of young people coincide with the county's biggest job centers, White Flint, Bethesda and Silver Spring. Yet there are also large concentrations of Millennials in places with fewer jobs, like Briggs Chaney in East County and Germantown in the Upcounty.

Not surprisingly, these communities are also more affordable. According to the 2006-2011 American Community Survey, the median monthly rent is $1,565 in Census tract 7048.06 in Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle, compared to $1,344 in Census tract 7008.18 in the Middlebrook section of Germantown.

Both of these neighborhoods have some of the county's largest concentrations of Millennials, suggesting that there may be more to it than affordability. If we take a closer look at different segments of the county's young adults, we can get a better understanding of why they live where they do.

Educated and single Millennials move closer in

Here's a map of 18-to-34-year olds with at least an associate's degree:

Where college-educated Millennials live in Montgomery County.
Click on the image for a larger version, or see it without the rankings.

The general distribution of young people is the same, but there's a slight shift towards the Downcounty. College-educated people tend to have higher incomes, which might explain why there are more of them in expensive areas like Bethesda and Friendship Heights.

Where young singles live in Montgomery County.
Click on the image for a larger version, or see it without the rankings.

However, the county's single Millennials have decidedly chosen to live closer in, settling in and around downtown Silver Spring, downtown Bethesda, Friendship Heights and White Flint. These neighborhoods have almost everything that a young single person would want: they're close to Metro, major employers and the District, they contain a fair number of bars and restaurants, and they have a variety of housing options. Silver Spring in particular has a number of group houses.

Millennials with families move farther out

Where young families live in Montgomery County.
Click on the image for a larger version, or see it without the rankings.

While singles are flocking to closer-in neighborhoods, Montgomery's young families, defined here as households led by individuals under 34 and related by marriage, blood or adoption, are moving farther out. All ten of the county's largest concentrations of young families are well outside the Beltway, particularly in Gaithersburg and Germantown. Just one is near a Metro station, Twinbrook.

This fits the long-held stereotype that once you get married and have kids, you move to the suburbs in search of larger, more affordable housing. Not only is it cheaper to rent in the Upcounty, it's cheaper to buy: the median home value in Middlebrook is just $294,000, compared to $516,800 in the Woodmont Triangle.

Yet families who choose to move farther out will pay considerably more for transportation than they would elsewhere. That might explain why young families appear to have settled in neighborhoods like Fallsgrove in Rockville, which were designed to encourage walking and biking, near shopping areas like Washingtonian Center or employment areas like the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center.

Meanwhile, young families still make up one-tenth of all households in downtown Bethesda and downtown Silver Spring, suggesting that some are interested in an urban lifestyle. This isn't a new trend: I grew up in an high-rise apartment building in downtown Silver Spring in the 1990s, and there were plenty of kids around. Of course, my mother chose to live there because it was "affordable and quiet," which I'm not sure characterizes the area today.

What does this mean?

These maps have implications not just for Montgomery County, but the whole region. They show that the District and Arlington aren't the only places that can attract Millennials, so long as they can be near neighborhoods near transit, shopping and jobs. While many young families are choosing to live farther out, they're still seeking a semi-urban experience.

They also show that one of Montgomery's greatest strengths remains its diversity of neighborhoods, allowing it to attract both singles and families. However, two distinct challenges lie ahead. One is to preserve a supply of affordably-priced housing in the county's urban areas, both established places like Bethesda or emerging ones like White Flint. The other is to create more walkable neighborhoods and improve access to jobs, shopping and transit in the Upcounty and East County, where young families continue to settle.

Of course, Millennials aren't the only ones who want an urban or semi-urban lifestyle. But if Montgomery County wants to attract a new generation of residents, it needs to start listening to young adults. Without us, the county doesn't have much of a future.

Cross-posted at Friends of White Flint.

Dan Reed is an urban planner at Nelson\Nygaard. He writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. All opinions are his own. 


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Fascinating data and great analysis.

by Ben Ross on Mar 12, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

Cool work.

My wife and I are totally bucking this trend by living in Takoma Park. I guess we should move to Rockville?

by Nick on Mar 12, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

Is anyone willing to do this for the other counties and cities of this region?

by selxic on Mar 12, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

I work downtown with mostly 20-somethings, and I am shocked at how many of them live in places like Poolsville or Stafford. These are young singles, not people married with children. All so they can have a cheaply-made townhouse that is much bigger than they need all to themselves.

by Olde Skool on Mar 12, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

Very clean and to the point. I'm kind of shocked that several tracts hover around 50%. Is that 50% of adult population only or total population? Probably strong concentrations of students near transit.

by Alan B. on Mar 12, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

If MoCo wants to draw more Millenials then their redevelopment of White Flint seems to be on the correct path. If MoCo wants them to stay and raise a family then raising a bunch of high or mid-rise condos isn't going to keep them there.

by Fitz on Mar 12, 2013 11:06 am • linkreport

I would gladly live at Bombay Gaylord/Quarry House.

That's what this article is about, right? I only looked at the picture. ;)

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Mar 12, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

I would gladly live at Bombay Gaylord/Quarry House.

We'd have to learn to be roommates.

by drumz on Mar 12, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

This sort of exercise begs the question of how much MoCo really needs to appeal to this group. MoCo has attracted wave after wave of people leaving DC condos and apartments. Despite DC's recent growth and modest retention of families, this may not change very much. preparing for millenial families may be more important than attracting young singles and couples. Other examples of "phase of life" places are Connecticut Ave NW, which has been "where your grandmother lives" for a couple generations.

by Rich on Mar 12, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

They would keep more millenials down county if they keep the schools and facilities of high quality. Right now, the downcounty schools are bursting at the seams, but so many county facilities (pools,etc) are further out, like we all live in Rockville.

by SJE on Mar 12, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport


I already have the data for the whole region, and I'd like to do a post for it as well - I just need the shapefiles in a format I can edit (unfortunately, I don't have GIS anymore!) If anyone would be willing to help, I'd appreciate it.


There is some concentration of young adults and families sort of around Takoma Park (namely East Silver Spring and Long Branch). I was surprised there weren't more IN Takoma Park, but houses in that area can be pretty expensive.

by dan reed! on Mar 12, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

I'm sure more families would cluster downcounty if houses weren't so expensive down there.

by Chris S. on Mar 12, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

Rich wrote:

This sort of exercise begs the question of how much MoCo really needs to appeal to this group. MoCo has attracted wave after wave of people leaving DC condos and apartments. Despite DC's recent growth and modest retention of families, this may not change very much. preparing for millenial families may be more important than attracting young singles and couples.

This is sort of what I was getting at too. Millenial families, or couples preparing to have kids, seem to be a much more desirable group to cater towards because they're more likely to stay in a given location and also have higher incomes (read: tax revenue). I think what Alexandria is doing with Potomac Yard and building many modest-sized townhome-type condominiums is a good example of what MoCo should further emulate.

by Fitz on Mar 12, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

This is a great piece of work. I'd just add two words...
Purple line.

by Thayer-D on Mar 12, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

Millenial families, or couples preparing to have kids, seem to be a much more desirable group to cater towards

Localities want young childless singles because they pay more in taxes than they consume in services. Start adding kids to the mix and that flies out the window.

by Juanita de Talmas on Mar 12, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

Maybe if the county overhauled their poorly conceived low income housing (MPDU) requirement it would help keep millennial in the county.

Currently the only people that benefit from the 12.5% MPDU requirements are DC transplants with vouchers who have been priced out from previously impoverished neighborhoods. Not only does it increase crime in the county significantly (in Germantown in particular), it virtually guarantees that in each development the people in the lowest income bracket will be minorities (so it doesn't really promote true "diversity"). At the same, the high school and college graduates who the county has invested heavily in (financially and otherwise) leave the county to live elsewhere because its unaffordable.

A better way to keep young people in the county would be to add restrictions to the MPDU's (similar to the senior and employee housing requirements), including requiring that at least half of the allocation be offered to graduates of MC High Schools (including those who went to college elsewhere or didn't go to college). The remaining units should first be offered to college graduates (certificates, associates, bachelors, masters, etc. from within the county or elsewhere).

Any units left can then be free-for-all. Of course there should still be an across the board requirement that tenants make less than a specific level of income. In addition, to qualify for any MPDU prospective tenants should not have a felony on your criminal record for anytime within the previous 5 years. You must also be a legal resident of the United States (this should not apply to MCPS graduates though).

This proposal would increase diversity, income equality, and retain younger residents in Montgomery County.

by King Terrapin on Mar 12, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

I've always wondered why Germantown has a relatively high crime rate (for the county). Seems like it should be rural and peaceful.

by Chris S. on Mar 12, 2013 3:55 pm • linkreport

Germantown is anything but rural and peaceful. It's suburbia run amok. There's an attempt to make a very small part of Germantown into a "town center" with a bus transit center. The majority of Germantown is strip malls, sprawling housing development as far as the eye can see, and car-oriented development. Bike and ped facilities are lacking.

by Birdie on Mar 12, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

as Juanita said, the young professionals are money makers to jurisdictions because they tend to live in dense, expensive apartments, and tend to like to spend what little money they have left on entertainment/food. They also generally do not have kids, so the expense of more kids in the school system is not there. Hey, I was born in '83 - I get it. I also do currently live in Silver Spring, but I do wish it were 'hipper', to play off some previous statements by a Council member. There is a population of older established adults living in the single family homes that surround almost all of these young enclaves, and they are generally against change, or at least against change on the scale that is proposed. These commercial centers near Metro that the County is turning into transit oriented urban areas, are where these homeowners have shopped, ate out, and otherwise lived for years, and many don't want to be bothered with the younger generation, the structured parking, the organic bakeries. I'm not sure what the answer is to getting more buy in from the existing home owners into welcoming the change near the transit.

About Germantown, to me, it's got a bit of a crime problem because it's the perfect example of 1987 planning on steroids, full of poorly designed neighborhoods, full of poorly constructed townhouses, that have not retained property values nearly as well as development that occurred before the mid 80's, and is not valued as well as development after the mid 90's when MoCo started to get smarter about how it laid out the suburban housing to feel a bit less sprawly. You'll note the oldest and newest communities in Germantown are not as bad as those 1980-something developments, excluding a few single family detached neighborhoods with lake access in the far north. Same problem that has given Gaithersburg and parts of the 29 corridor their lower income and higher crime concentrations.

by Gull on Mar 12, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

Not to be too obtuse, but I don't quite follow. Why do poorly designed townhouses lead to a concentration of crime?

by Chris S. on Mar 12, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

Chris S.,
Because bad design, cheap construction, and lousy location do not attract affluence. People with choices exercise them.

by spookiness on Mar 12, 2013 5:23 pm • linkreport

@ Chris S., Gull, Birdie

While I agree that Germantown is the atypical car-oriented suburb (and the third most-populated place in MD after Columbia), remember that it's over 25 miles from DC and supposed to be MoCo's "last suburb" before the Ag. Zone (in reality that's actually Clarksburg) and the county has indeed made some strides in making Germantown a more sustainable and attractive community.

The walkable Town Center for instance has over 30 resturants/retailers, an upcoming park, a performing Arts/Cultural Center, a Regal Theater, a new library, and a large transit center (which serves about 15 RideOn routes a MTA commuter bus route), and should serve as a model for typically ugly, pro-auto suburbia. In addition, Germantown has one of the busiest MARC stations in the state. Even the huge Milestone mega-retail (Walmart/Target/Best Buy/etc) and upcoming Wegmans-anchored developments are somewhat useful and could be far worse (See: Rockville Pike).

That said, there are plenty of problems with Germantown, although some are subtle. Apart from the developments I mentioned above, everything else is in the typical strip-mall style as Gull mentioned. Germantown is also significantly segregated, (although with 80,000+ residents you could say that's inevitable) Most low income/minority residents live in neighborhoods roughly south and east of MD118/Germantown Road, while areas north and west are wealthy. I will say that this pales in comparison to Gaithersburg, which is night and day on each side of I-270. The problem with G'town, being further from DC and newer, is that it has some of the cheapest housing along the MoCo I-270 corridor and has the largest number of MPDU's, so it naturally attracts tenants priced-out of poorer DC neighborhoods (as well as their problems).

In terms of horrible planning/sprawling development, neighboring Clarksburg is easily the worst offender in MoCo (if not all of MD). What used to be the "rural and peaceful" community described by Chris S has now been bulldozed over with thousands of new townhomes and McMansions spaced 2inches apart. Pretty much the only farm left is Butler's Orchard. Developers clearly took advantage of the fact that C'burg was the only undeveloped community in the county not in the Ag. Preserve. Of course there were zero road improvements (much less transit improvements), so MD355 and MD27 are now traffic choked for 8 hours every day.

by King Terrapin on Mar 12, 2013 5:42 pm • linkreport

@King Terrapin - Thanks for the insightful background.

Another thing that makes me scratch my head is why the southbound 270 rush hour traffic is so much worse north of Rockville than south of it. I would have thought the traffic would get denser and denser as you get closer to DC, but for some reason this isn't the case.

by Chris S. on Mar 12, 2013 6:27 pm • linkreport

Another thing that makes me scratch my head is why the southbound 270 rush hour traffic is so much worse north of Rockville than south of it.

People driving to Metro?

by MLD on Mar 12, 2013 6:51 pm • linkreport

Perhaps some do, but the traffic remains bumper to bumper even south of Exit 8 where Shady Grove station is located, so that doesn't seem to account for a significant percentage of the crowd.

by Chris S. on Mar 12, 2013 7:04 pm • linkreport

@King Terrapin:

Germantown is not supposed to be Montgomery County's last I-270 corridor city. Clarksburg is. Clarksburg has been a planned corridor city (off and on) since On Wedges and Corridors in 1964.

And developers did not "[take] advantage of the fact that C'burg was the only undeveloped community in the county not in the Ag. Preserve". They are developing according to the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan: 43,000 people, in 4 stages.(Also, it's the Ag Reserve, not the Ag Preserve.)

Also, the stuff you said about the only people who benefit from MPDUs are minority (non-white?) DC transplants who commit crimes and don't increase true diversity -- citations please.

by Miriam on Mar 12, 2013 8:30 pm • linkreport

I have to counter King Terrapin's claim that Clarksburg is the worst planed thing ever. It's actually the most planned of all the corridor cities, because it came in last, and it was known this had to be good. Planning is not always about preserving farmland. Planning in Clarksburg was planning a network of parks, parkways, commercial shopping destinations, and a high enough density of houses and a mix of housing types to foster the scene of community people like in communities like Kentlands and King Farm.

Germantown is certainly poised for change, as the latest employment area plan calls for millions of square feet of new housing and office development, mainly tearing down and replacing everything that exists along Century and Crystal Rock Blvds between 118 and Father Hurley.

Traffic on 270 lightens as you head south not only because of the Metro, but because that area around Shady Grove and 28 is a huge employment area. By that point the road has assumed the full 6 lanes in each direction too, adding capacity that does not exist further north.

by Gull on Mar 13, 2013 9:05 am • linkreport

@Gull - Thanks for the 270 breakdown. I had no idea that many people worked around central Rockville. I guess most of the offices are off the beaten track.

by Chris S. on Mar 13, 2013 9:18 am • linkreport

Dan - thank you for this reporting. As Silver Spring continues building an identity, I'm glad to know that young people like what they see.

by Evan Glass on Mar 13, 2013 10:11 am • linkreport

@Gull: Planning in Clarksburg was planning a network of parks, parkways, commercial shopping destinations, and a high enough density of houses and a mix of housing types to foster the scene of community people like in communities like Kentlands and King Farm.

Have you spoken to people who live in Clarksburg about the success of Clarksburg planning?

by Miriam on Mar 13, 2013 10:56 am • linkreport

@ Chris S.

This is very true. In fact, during the evening rush the worst part of the backup is usually between the CSX/MARC bridge and the Germantown exits (give or take a .5 mile). This is more than likely due to the fact that the NB local lanes end at MD124 creating a bottleneck. The county has plans to widen I-270 (presumably adding local lanes) past Clarksburg, although this is unlikely to solve anything long term, and will just encourage more sprawl in Frederick County (see: Urbana).

Thanks for the correction. It's really a shame that the county didn't choose to ammend the Master Plan. The developers probably won't stop until every square inch of open space in Clarksburg is covered with new homes.

Please don't take what I said in an absolute sense. I was only pointing out the flaws of the MPDU system, but there are of course many virtues that I didn't mention. Overall, I think the MPDU program is necessary in a county such as Montgomery where the COL is through the roof, but it should be better targeted. Much of my comment on crime was from the top of my head and is anecdotal info based on personal observations from living in Germantown, but a look at a Patch crime report from last week gives you an idea of what I'm talking about.

by King Terrapin on Mar 13, 2013 12:25 pm • linkreport

@Gull 3/12 on 4:21:

As someone a decade older than millenials, I can't agree more about the "older established adults" resiting change. Hey, I'd love Silver Spring to be hipper, too. What could be better for the county (and those of us who own single-family houses near Silver Spring) than for young people to move into a hip downtown Silver Spring, then transition to a single family home near a hip Silver Spring? Plus, it would invigorate the area, improve diversity, and have more people around at all times of day? As someone living in North Takoma, literally down the street from Silver Spring, why wouldn't I want more to do less than half a mile from me?

by EMD on Mar 13, 2013 9:52 pm • linkreport

Well, they built the Fillmore. That is a solid step toward attracting a younger crowd.

But I hope Silver Spring won't stomp out charismatic landmarks like Quarry House in its quest for hipness.

by Chris S. on Mar 13, 2013 10:09 pm • linkreport

As a person who works in "North Bethesda" (across from White Flint) and rents in the Glenmont area, I really enjoyed this article.

My husband and I rent from a condo owner in a building we would never choose to buy in, but the renovations and price made it worth it. Plus we live in walking distance of a metro stop. We don't live in an area where we can do a lot aside from general needs (groceries, drug stores, gas) and we really seem to do everything in Rockville.

What MoCo needs is definitely more walkable communities, but not just areas with condos. They need more areas like King Farm with a mixture of housing options, but with more amenities. That way a young professional who wants to stay in the community has the opportunity to.

However, King Farm is a great example of a walkable community that young people seem NOT to be flocking to, mainly I feel, because of the problem you pointed out - affordability.

MoCo is never going to attract more young professionals until they realize that the economy has changed and while we may be employed, we don't want to (and can't) spend all of our income on housing, since we are young, and want to still be extremely social. Along that, since MoCo offers very little in nightlife for the younger crowd, we have to spend our income in downtown DC and places like Bethesda, just furthering the idea that it would be better to live in those areas so we didn't have the hassle of traveling there. While the newest housing (like the condos going up in places like Wheaton and White Flint) might cater to our wants, they unfortunately don't cater to our wallets. I fear that when White Flint is finally developed, this will be a huge problem there as well. Especially with the triple [wallet] threat of being on the pike, being near a metro, and being in a brand new neighborhood/building. Hopefully someone considers this before they slap a $2000+/month price tag on a rental aimed at people who only have a $1500 (and below)/month housing budget.

This was a great article, and some really interesting comments! Thanks for sharing!

by Tiffanni on Mar 16, 2013 8:55 am • linkreport

This is fantastic stuff.
Have you done any analysis of where all of the millenials who work in Montgomery County live, or where all of the millenials who live in Montgomery County work? Or any analysis of trends in over time in the choices that millenials make about where to live in the DC region?

by Jacob Sesker on Mar 21, 2013 9:20 am • linkreport

Love this as I help my millenial son find where to live for his first job after college/master's in Rockville. Looks like Grosvenor-North Bethesda. Loved this - oh I said that already.

by ChristineJohnson on Feb 11, 2014 8:24 pm • linkreport

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