For years, young adults in New Jersey have been leaving the suburbs and flocking to urban areas. But things could be changing.

According to Rutgers University economist James Hughes, new Census estimates show that, “surprisingly for the first time in the last seven years, suburbs [are] growing faster than the historic downtowns.”

He calls the trend a startling reversal but no one is sure if “is this simply a one-year distortion in the data or does it signal finally a new turnaround?”

He said several recent studies indicate in other parts of the country, “the suburbs have bounced back."

So what’s driving this change?

“Many Millennials are starting to enter the family-raising stage of the life cycle. They may like the urban lifestyle but all of a sudden they need some outdoor space, more indoor space; they need schools, they need back yards and urban areas are a very difficult place to raise multiple children.”

Apartments in urban settings can be extraordinarily expensive even if they’re small.

Hughes, who co-authored the report “The Burbs Bounce Back, Trendlet or Dead Cat Bounce?” with economics professor emeritus Joe Seneca, said many Jersey towns are developing their downtown areas and this may also be fueling the trend to a degree.

“They are adding the types of stores and restaurants, the types of coffee shops that not only Millennials like but the broader population.”

He added the very success of the Hudson River waterfront, Brooklyn and Manhattan has forced prices to skyrocket, and in some cases the infrastructure may be getting overtaxed.

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You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com