MARYVILLE, Mo. — Nodaway County was near the top of a list released recently of places young people are moving, but the national ranking’s criteria make meaningful conclusions difficult to draw.
Compiled by a company called 24/7 Wall Street and picked up widely by national outlets like USA TODAY and MSN.com along with multiple local news organizations, the list ranks cities and counties across the country where people ages 18-34 moved in 2017. Nodaway County was ranked No. 2 in the nation.
To make the list, 24/7 Wall Street used the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey to find the number of 18-34 year olds who moved to a city or county in 2017 from a different county, then ranked the areas based on that number as a share of the total county population.
In order “to create a more diverse list of counties,” the company excluded any counties where the ACS estimated the population to be 25 percent or more college students, eliminating many smaller communities with colleges or universities. But Nodaway County, at 23 percent, just missed this cutoff. Consequently, college students are included in the numbers cited by the rankings.
According to the list, an eye-popping 13.3 percent of the county’s total population — which would be a little more than 3,000 people — moved to Nodaway County in 2017 alone, all ages 18-34.
“Two ... common reasons Americans cite for moving are a desire for cheaper housing and a desire to own a home rather than rent,” author Samuel Stebbins wrote for 24/7 Wall Street. “And low housing costs may partially explain why many of the counties on this list are drawing in so many new, young residents.”
But based on a housing study commissioned by the city of Maryville and released earlier this year, that’s not likely to be the case in Nodaway County.
“Many respondents stated the housing market is overpriced, the quality of housing is poor, upkeep on rental housing is lacking, and the market seems to be geared towards college students, not families and seniors,” the study said of the survey it carried out in summer 2018.
RDG Planning and Design, the firm that put together the study, agreed with the survey results.
“Students are supporting price points that are often higher than what individuals filling many of the city’s jobs can afford,” RDG analysts said in the report, noting also a “severe lack of housing in the $125,00 to $200,000 range and the quality of housing in the $75,000 range is in poor condition.”
Moving the cutoff from age 18 to age 25, which would exclude most college students and include more likely homebuyers and full-time job seekers, the percentage of the total population ages 25-34 who moved to Nodaway County in 2017 drops to a little more than 2 percent — just over 500 people — from the 13.3 percent that 24/7 Wall Street cited with an age cutoff of 18.
But Maryville City Manager Greg McDanel, who touted the county’s ranking frequently on social media, said there are still plenty of positives that draw “countless young adults” to the area. Specifically, he pointed to low unemployment, a community rated as one of the safest in Missouri, quality educational and cultural opportunities, access to exceptional health care, small-town values, high quality parks and outdoor recreation and proximity to areas like Kansas City, Omaha and Des Moines.
“There’s always going to be that person who’s like, ‘gosh, those millennials are just the worst,’” said Lily White, a millennial herself and executive director of the Greater Maryville Chamber of Commerce. “But really a lot of it is, we’re kind of being elevated to make differences in Maryville. And not so much ‘oh, it’s the millenials’ turn to have to do all of it,’ but we’re being handed an oar (to become) … a respected member of the team.”
White estimated that half of the chamber board is made up of millennials, and pointed to other committees that have similar breakdowns.
“I think being trusted to be a part of the team and (to) add valuable insight, and also being asked to be a part of the team (in the first place), I think that's a part of it.”