More than anyplace else in the Washington region, Arlington and the District have been successful in attracting an outsize number of residents between the ages 25 to 34, census statistics show. These young adults, part of a generation known as “echo boomers,” are one of the fastest-growing age groups in the United States, second only to people 55 to 64, a cohort swollen by baby boomers.
In the past two years, the number of people in the 25-to-34 age cohort increased by 12 percent in the District and 10 percent in Arlington, far above the national average of 3 percent and the regional average of 6 percent.
Across the nation, the echo boomer population has spiked near military installations and in Texas oil boom country. But this age group also is fueling growth around cities such as Morgantown, W.Va.; Richmond; Charleston, S.C.; and New Orleans.
Still young and with more money to spend than new college grads, they have sparked much of the transformation of Arlington and the District during the past decade. Government policies have been devised to lure them, and apartment buildings, restaurants, specialty supermarkets and bike lanes have sprung up to reel in even more.
Demographers are watching to see if they will move to more distant suburbs — particularly those who had children after the recession began and may be waiting before leaping into bigger houses elsewhere. For the moment, however, many echo boomers are hewing to a different pattern from previous generations.
Instead of heading for more car-centric suburbs as soon as they start having children, many are sticking around the urban core close to Metro stations.
“What you’re seeing in Arlington and Washington is that you can live here without a car,” said Harriet Tregoning, director of the District’s Office of Planning. She says that is a boon for people who owe a lot of money on college loans: “If you don’t have a car, you can pay off your college debt quickly. As long as it’s expensive to go to college, we have a competitive advantage.”
Proximity to Metro was important to David Kunz, 32, when he decided to rent an apartment in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood after he and his wife and son moved from Dubai to Virginia last year. They didn’t own a car, and he could ride Metro to his job as a database administrator and walk to the supermarket and parks.
“It’s close enough to the city, and it’s a good mix of city and family-oriented suburban life,” he said. “There’s a Metro station. And restaurants nearby if we choose not to cook.”
Arlington officials boast of having the nation’s highest proportion of residents in that age span — 28 percent — running just ahead of Alexandria, New York, the District and San Francisco.