Scott Ball / Rivard Report
San Antonio ranks second in the nation for growth rate of the adult population between the ages of 18 and 34 from 2010 to 2015, according to a recent study by the Brookings Institution.
Now considered the largest segment of the adult population in the United States, exceeding 75 million people nationwide, millennials have impacted the nation’s economy and culture with their technological savvy, ballooning student debt, and city-changing lifestyles.
Alberto Altamirano is the San Antonio-based co-founder and CEO of Cityflag, a crowd-sourced mobile application for city service requests that allows users to flag issues on an online map, and receive text-message notifications about their requests. Altamirano encourages the city government to nurture its growing millennial population by providing better access to technology and education.
“If we can build an environment that nurtures innovation, then [millennials] will be curious about how they can contribute to the technology development that is happening here in San Antonio,” he said.
San Antonio’s millennial population increased by more than 14 percent from 2010 to 2015, outpacing that of Austin (11.8 percent) and Houston (11.7 percent), both of which were in the top 10 of the 100 major metropolitan areas studied. Colorado Springs, Colorado, led the nation with 14.7 percent growth in its millennial population.
Millennials now make up more than 25 percent of San Antonio’s overall population, according to the study.
Explore San Antonio’s millennial “footprint” compared to other cities across the nation through the interactive map below, created by the Rivard Report based on data from the study.
More than 58 percent of San Antonio’s millennial population is Hispanic. The city ranks fifth in the top 10 metropolitan areas for total growth of Hispanic young adults, exceeding 45,000 people over the five-year period. San Antonio trails Houston, which has a millennial Hispanic population that increased over the same time period by more than 48,000.
“Latino millennials are innovators and hustlers,” Altamirano said. “They represent the future. As we move forward into the 21st century, Latinos are going to make up a good chunk of the population of the United States.”
Altamirano noted that young Latinos are some of the nation’s savviest internet users, attracting recruitment by technology companies such as Google.
“That’s interesting for San Antonio, because San Antonio enjoys a large Latino population,” he said.
San Antonio also has the fifth-lowest rate of black millennials in poverty, 17.1 percent, just after Boston, at 17 percent, according to the study. Washington, D.C., has the nation’s lowest rate of black millennials in poverty at 14.2 percent.
Olivia Youngblood personifies successful black millennials. The 32-year-old moved to San Antonio from Florida to pursue a career in sustainable energy. She works as an energy advisor for a vendor to CPS Energy.
Youngblood was attracted to San Antonio in part due to its affordability. “San Antonio is a very low-cost place to live,” she said. “It’s appealing because … it’s a really good place to start off. There are a lot of opportunities.”
Those opportunities, Youngblood said, stem from millennials’ online connectivity that enables them to see local and national market demands.
“There’s so many different opportunities for entrepreneurship, from writing to speaking to music and clothes, to even making movies,” she said. “A lot of things are coming together for younger African Americans in San Antonio and the nation.”
However, educational attainment continues to be a challenge for San Antonio, and this challenge is also borne out by its young adult population, according to the study. Along with a handful of other large metropolitan areas, San Antonio has college graduate rates of less than 30 percent, meaning less than a third of the city’s older millennial population has a college degree.
Altamirano said the digital divide, including access to computers, software, and the internet, contributes to poor education outcomes for young adults in San Antonio.
“A lot of [people] … do not have access to technology, and that challenge can become the learning curve that a lot of young folks in San Antonio, and South Texas in general, experience,” he said.
Millennials in San Antonio and across the country are weighing the cost of a college education against the likelihood of finding a job, Altamirano said, turning instead toward entrepreneurship using the technology at their fingertips.
“Young people are watching. Is it worth it going to college?” he said. “There’s a silver lining to all of this, and it’s that young people are becoming more entrepreneurial.”