A new report from the City Observatory think tank finds that college educated young people are flocking to metropolitan areas in ever higher numbers.
This report sheds new light on national and Adirondack Park demographic trends. Titled The Young and Restless and the Nation’s Cities, this report draws a number of interesting conclusions.
Despite the soap opera title, the Young and Restless report shows that college educated 25-34 year olds are the most mobile of Americans. Long-term trends show that Americans are moving around the country less than we once did, yet young college educated Americans are the most mobile: around 1 million college educated young adults move from one state to another each year. Most important, the report states that there was a clear metropolitan preference for college educated young Americans in 2012.
Among the reports’ most pertinent findings:
• 25 to 34 year olds with a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education, are increasingly moving to the close-in neighborhoods of the nation’s large metropolitan areas. This migration is fueling economic growth and urban revitalization.
• Well-educated young adults are disproportionately found in a few metropolitan areas. Two-thirds of the nation’s 25-34 year olds with a BA degree live in the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas, those areas with a million or more population.
• Within the largest metropolitan areas, well-educated young adults are increasing moving to close-in urban neighborhoods. Talented young adults, in the aggregate are much more likely to choose to locate in close in urban neighborhoods than are other Americans. In the 51 largest metropolitan areas, college-educated 25 to 34 year olds are more than twice as likely than all residents of metro areas to live in close-in urban neighborhoods.
• Businesses are increasingly locating in or near urban centers to better tap into the growing pool of well-educated young workers, and because these central city locations enable firms to better compete for talent locally and recruit talent from elsewhere. Businesses are following people.
• The availability of talented young workers also plays a key role in the formation and growth of new firms. Startups and young firms employ disproportionately large numbers of young, well-educated workers.
• Talented young adults are playing a key role in driving urban revitalization. In the 25 large metropolitan areas where close in urban neighborhoods have experienced population growth since 2000, the increase in the number of 25 to 34 year-olds with a four-year degree has accounted for a majority of the net increase in population in 19 cities, and all of the net increase in population in 7 cities.
• Young, well-educated adults are the most mobile Americans. Despite a decades-long, nationwide decline in geographic mobility by Americans, one million college educated 25 to 34 year olds move across state lines each year. Because mobility declines rapidly with age, the location decisions they make in their 20s and early 30s play a key role in shaping metropolitan economic success.
The report states “In 2012, about 9.2 million 25 to 34 year olds with at least a four-year college degree lived in the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas. Together these college educated young adults made up about 5.2 percent of the overall population of these large metropolitan areas in the United States.”
The report highlights 51 metropolitan areas in the U.S. with at least 1 million people. Of these 51 metropolitan areas three are in New York: 1) New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA Metro Area, which gained over 255,000 college educated 25-34 year olds from 2000-2012, up 25% from the previous decade; 2) Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY Metro Area, which saw a gain of over 14,500 college educated 25-34 year olds from 2000-2012, up 33.5%; 3) Rochester, NY Metro Area, which saw a gain of nearly 4,000 college educated 25-34 year olds from 2000-2012, up 9.1%.
Two other interesting findings in this report show that in the three New York metro areas the total number of college educated people grew in 2000-2012 (NYC area 36.6%-45.6%, Buffalo 30.6-42.1%, Rochester 32.6%-36.7%) and that the percent of the total population occupied by 25-34 year old college educated young people also rose (NYC 5.5%-6.6%, Buffalo 3.8%-5.2%, Rochester 4.2%-4.5%).
Other places in the U.S. saw stunning growth with college educated young people 2000-2012. The Washington, DC metro area saw its cohort of educated young people grow by 36%. The Houston metro area grew by 49%, Denver by 46%, San Diego 42%, Nashville 47%, and Orlando 43%, just to name a few. Even metro areas across the frozen northeast saw its college educated 24-35 year old cohort grow: Pittsburgh by 28%, Hartford 17%, Providence 6%, Philadelphia 22%, and Boston 11%.
In the Adirondack Park, we can look at Hamilton and Essex Counties, both totally within the Blue Line, as surrogates for a possible Park-wide experience for 25-34 year olds in general, not specifically college educated. Here we find that between 2000-2010 we lost 110 25-34 year olds in Essex County (-2.16% for the total cohort) and in Hamilton County there was a net gain of 1 person. While minor losses or flat lines are the standard for rural areas of Upstate New York and much of Rural America for the 25-34 year old cohort, it stands in stark contrast to the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. and the three largest metro areas in New York.
In 2010, in Hamilton County 25.1% of its population had a college degree or better. In Essex it was 24.6%. In Kings County (Brooklyn) it was over 30% and in New York County (Manhattan) it was over 58%.
Young and Restless also reports about preferences of college educated 25-34 year olds for an urban experience. The report states that in focus groups “What we heard was a litany of urbanist bullet points: that this younger generation was looking for places that were interesting, diverse, dense, walkable, bikeable and well-served by transit. Our statistical analysis showed that, compared to previous generations, young adults were increasingly choosing to locate in the close-in neighborhoods of the nation’s urban areas.”
Around the world cities are growing while rural areas are losing populations. The movement of highly educated young people is an intense subset of a larger dynamic.
Major national trends are reshaping Rural America. The migration of young college educated people to metropolitan areas is part of the story. The chore for Adirondack Park leaders is to understand these dynamics and to develop strategies for ways to tap into these larger trends.