Monday, May 18, 2009

"Youth market" cities hitting midlife crisis

One of the greatest challenges for the building industry for the future lies in predicting population changes, especially for those 'youth-oriented' cities which not only attract 'the creative class,' but in so doing benefit from the higher education levels and innovation such people bring with them. Today, although younger people (especially age 25-39) continue to move to 'cool places,' there are fewer jobs for them -- a disconnect (hopefully temporary) that places like Phoenix or Portland now have to address. From a Wall Street Journal story:

The worst recession in a generation is disrupting migration patterns and overturning lives across the country. Yet, cities like Portland, along with Austin, Texas, Seattle and others, continue to be draws for the young, educated workers that communities and employers covet. What these cities share is a hard-to-quantify blend of climate, natural beauty, universities and -- more than anything else -- a reputation as a cool place to live. For now, an excess of young workers is adding to the ranks of the unemployed. But holding on to these people through the downturn will help cities turn around once the economy recovers...

Indeed, the trend has appeared to continue. Between 2005 and 2007, only eight metropolitan areas -- many of them bigger -- added more college-educated migrants of any age than did Portland, the nation's 23rd largest metro area, according to an analysis of Census data by William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. A more detailed breakdown by age isn't yet available, but Mr. Frey and other demographers say the bulk of the movers are likely between the ages of 25 and 39, the most mobile age group by far...

Portland isn't discouraging the young and educated from coming, though the glut of workers puts more stress on city services. One of the most important factors in a city's economic success is the education level of its work force, says Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser. Cities such as Detroit and Cleveland that have exported college graduates in recent years are trying to retain them with everything from internship programs to building artists' lofts.

"I'm hopeful people will stick around," says Portland mayor Sam Adams. "Even if they come to my city without a job, it is still an economic plus."...

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