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Broken down by age and metro area, the Washington, D.C., area ranked at the top of destinations for young adults in the 2009-2011 period, rocketing up from 45th in 2006-2008. The area has been boosted by its promise of more plentiful government-related jobs, as well as a continuing influx of students attending area universities and its up-and-coming neighborhoods.

Texas metro areas including Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, which already were on the rise before the recession hit in late 2007, have remained a strong draw for young adults due to in large part to their thriving energy and high-tech industries. They ranked second, fifth, sixth and ninth, respectively, in terms of youth migration.

Denver and Portland, Ore., rounded out the top five at No. 3 and No. 4.

Separate census data released earlier this year showed that most of America’s largest cities were growing at a faster rate than their surrounding suburbs for the first time in a century, driven mostly by young adults. That also has prompted city planners to devise ways to attract young adults, who generally desire no-strings-attached apartment living and close proximity to potential jobs.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in July invited architects to design an apartment building of “micro-units” no more than 300 square feet. The city envisions a future in which the young and the cash-poor will flock to these dwellings, having grown weary of “doubling up” with friends or family in the economic downturn.

In San Francisco, developers are seeking permission to rent out apartments as small as 220 square feet, a little more than twice the size of some prison cells.

Kenneth Johnson, a senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire, said it’s hard to predict how much migration ultimately will pick up given the uncertainty in the economy. He said the people making the biggest moves in the coming years likely will be those who feel they must: young adults in search of jobs, couples with small children seeking better schools, new retirees desiring high-amenity recreational living.

“I suspect the recession has sobered the American population about migration,” Johnson said.

The census findings are based on the Current Population Survey as of March 2012, as well as comparisons of the 2006-2008 and the 2009-2011 American Community Survey to provide a snapshot of every U.S. community with at least 20,000 residents. Figures from the 2011 American Community Survey also are used to establish broader trends.

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Online:

U.S. Census Bureau: www.census.gov