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Age Matters Across the Issues

By Evan Schmidt

From the Research Unit: What are the core issues across age demographics in the Capital Region?

Age matters when it comes to our day-to-day experiences and the perspectives that we hold. Valley Vision’s Research Unit is developing a series of research briefs profiling the unique views of different age demographics by drawing from our public opinion polling series.  We have been conducting public opinion polls, in partnership with Sacramento State, Institute for Social Research (ISR) since 2017 – looking at Capital Region residents’ priorities, values, experiences, and preferences on Civic Amenities, Transportation, Quality of Life, and the Environment. For our upcoming research profiles, we’ve pulled out data points from each age demographic to dive deeper and look at how our polling data relates to other research for each generation. We will be exploring the generations, defined as: Gen Z and Millennials (aged 18-38); Gen X (aged 39-54); and Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation (aged 55+). Here are some samplings of age-related issues that we will analyze with our upcoming research profiles.

According to our Livability Poll, Gen Z and Millennials are oriented towards housing affordability and access to opportunity when determining where they want to live. When asked their top considerations in their choice of residence, Gen Z and Millennials cited “it is an affordable place to live” (54%), “access to high quality jobs” (50%) as the most important factors. Additionally, Gen Z and Millennials are the most mobile, saying that they are most likely to have moved within the last three years and are most likely to move within the next three years when compared with other generations. A recent study by The National Association of Realtors looked at where Millennials want to live across the nation. They found that the most popular city for Millennials in California is not Sacramento, not San Francisco, not LA, but… (wait for it)….Bakersfield. Why? Because Bakersfield is the most affordable metro in the state. What can Sacramento learn? We will have to earn Millennial and Gen Z’s residency (and prevent their flight to Bakersfield) by providing affordable neighborhoods and employment opportunities. 

Photo credit: The Katchet Life. Mural by Tysan Throbe

Our polls show that Gen X, now in their late 30s to early 50s, are oriented towards family amenities – like high quality and nearby public schools, parks, and youth programs. Gen Xers in the Capital Region prefers suburban communities more strongly than other age demographics and are more likely to participate in local community activities like art shows and youth sports. In our expert roundtables about housing and livability, participants agreed that meeting the needs of families downtown is key to keeping our downtowns vibrant. This is consistent with other research findings. Designing for children translates to designing people-friendly spaces that are walkable, safe, and attractive, according to CityLab. With the City of Sacramento Unified School District in financial crisis, can we ensure that downtown remains a viable location for families now and in the future?

Those 55 and over are also a significant portion of the population with their own unique perspectives and needs. As featured in a recent Sacramento Bee article, by 2030, the 60-and-over population will be 40 percent larger in California than it is now, according to the California Department of Aging. Seniors will be a larger share of the population than kids under the age of 18 by 2036, the state projects. Additionally, a recent homeless count found that one in five homeless individuals in Sacramento county are 55 or over. This is highly concerning and heartbreaking, especially with the unique health care and other needs of the elderly. Our polls show that those 55+ are more likely than other generations to move because they are looking for cheaper rent (15% vs. less than 10% for other generations), and are looking for a variety of housing choices (41% want a greater variety compared to 27% or less of other generations). How do we ensure that our communities are properly caring for the unique needs of our growing senior population?

In order to build equitable, prosperous, and sustainable communities now and in the future, we must take into account the unique needs across generations. These issues and more will be further explored in the coming months as we dive deeper into the age demographics of our four public opinion polls to date. Stay tuned!

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Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Senior Director working on the Public Opinion Surveying initiative and projects in the Healthy Communities and 21st Century Workforce strategy areas.