Thursday, November 20, 2014

Report: Educated Young People Flocking To Cities

AtlantisA 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.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife and two children, enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Twitter.

21 Responses

  1. sally says:


    This certainly is my family’s experience, no argument from me. BUT…

    You say: “The chore for Adirondack Park leaders is to understand these dynamics and to develop strategies for ways to tap into these larger trends.”

    You are one of our leaders, I think, so, any suggestions? I’d love to read about any ideas you have to offer about how we might address this issue. Anything, really.

  2. Peter Bauer says:


    Thank you.

    Adirondack leaders have frequently misdiagnosed Adirondack Park population trends. The APRAP report is a classic example of failing to analyze the Adirondack Park experience against statewide or national population trends. We can’t change national trends for rural America, though in many ways we’ve faired far better than other rural areas. If we understand larger national population trends, then we’ll be better able to craft strategies for the region. The first thing I would counsel other Adirondack leaders to do is to stop misdiagnosing Adirondack and national population trends. Wrong conclusions lead to wrong strategies.

    I would add that as metro areas of the northeast grow, all within 5 or 6 hours of the Adirondacks, that we market the Park to a younger, more racially diverse visitors. Much of our tourist promotion calls for white tourists to come here by showing white people in the woods, on the lakes, in restaurants, and hotels.

    In a post at the Almanack ( not long ago I wrote the list below — and I think these still hold:

    — Put energy into identifying and investigating rural areas in the U.S. that successfully experienced economic growth.
    Investigate other rural areas in the U.S. that have racially diversified.

    — Look at other forest communities in other regions of the U.S. to search for models for prosperity.

    — Look closely at employment areas that are growing in the Park and rural America and assess the viability of similar strategies.

    — Study the communities in the Adirondacks that are growing for lessons about their successes.

    — Ask how the Adirondack Park can be made more attractive as a place to work and live for the college educated and how we can retain more of our seniors.

    — Investigate strategies to diversify our population. Rather than importing thousands of foreign workers each year for year-round and seasonal jobs, Adirondack communities should look to transition to a sustained recruitment campaign for Hispanics and other minorities to diversify the population.

    — Ensure that the historic levels of public investments coming to the Adirondack Park today in infrastructure, business assistance and promotion will truly provide expanded and sustainable economic activity.

    I would add to this that perhaps sinking many millions of dollars into one big hotel project on Lake Flower will not provide the same long-term economic boost as breaking down that money into several dozen small business loans/grants to those that want to expand and to startups. That’s something to examine.

    Finally, we need to continue to work to protect the Park’s open space landscape, protect habitats and natural resources, and provide a variety of appropriate outdoor recreational opportunities and develop the necessary infrastructure for these activities.

    Please feel free to share your ideas.

    • Bill Ingersoll says:


      Thanks for posting this article.

      In regards to the penultimate paragraph in your response above:

      “Finally, we need to continue to work to protect the Park’s open space landscape, protect habitats and natural resources, and provide a variety of appropriate outdoor recreational opportunities and develop the necessary infrastructure for these activities.”

      Here is where I think the handling of the Essex Chain classification last year was a big fat failure. All of the discussions were about the need for motorized access, on the assumption that New York State’s current population of aging outdoorspeople needs to be able to drive deep into state land if they have any chance of continuing the activities they enjoyed when they were younger. Lorraine Duvall’s piece posted last Saturday here on the Almanack seems to confirm that the true beneficiaries of the Essex Chain are people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s.

      This is all well and good if the general consensus is to ensure that the Forest Preserve is opened as much as possible to an aging population.

      However, if as you suggest (and as I agree) that the Adirondacks should appeal to younger generations, then there can be no more Essex Chains. People in the 25-34 age range will not require such easy access, and they would probably find that the long roads leading into the interior of the Essex Chain property **reduces** the recreational opportunities. You drive in, you paddle for a couple hours, and you’re done. You’ve seen everything, so unless there is something truly spectacular about this place there is not much inducement to return. There is no challenge, no opportunity for exploration, because anyone with a sturdy chassis can drive to within striking distance of the lakes. And when you get there, you can’t even have a campfire if you want to spend the night.

      So I hope that groups like Protect the Adirondacks keep this in mind for future land purchases. I vividly recall that Protect’s proposed land classification for the Essex Chain included deep road access; and when I questioned this at your committee meeting in June 2013 someone (Lorraine Duvall?) chastised me that someday I, too, would have creaky knees and be less able to hike much more than a mile–young whippersnapper that I currently am. (That wasn’t a verbatim quote of course, but that was the impression that stuck with me.)

      By taking such positions, are groups like Protect trying to appeal to the aging membership you currently possess, or the younger membership you’d like to attract? Are you advocating for a Forest Preserve that is managed for current self-serving needs, or for the demographic changes you’d like to instigate in the future?

  3. George L says:

    The important question is why, not what.

    Young people are flocking to the cities because they are looking for work, which is unavailable in non-urban areas. Many have student loans to pay off, the largest credit bubble in America.

    The trend reflects the hollowing out of America’s industrial heartland, the loss of manufacturing jobs, 30 years of declining real wages, the rise of low-wage “hamburger flippers”, and so on.

    It’s time for government to do as much for ordinary Americans as it does for extraordinary banks. We need a New New Deal for America. If not America, certainly for our beloved Adirondacks.

    • Steve says:

      The cities offer a lot more than just jobs for young people. It offers culture and entertainment. A lot of young people move to cities and work service jobs. They want to be in the cities, they work to support their fun.

    • Outlier says:

      The “old” New Deal really didn’t work that well. Preparing for WW2 finally brought unemployment down. The state of New York retained much of the New Deal and the results speak for themselves.

  4. sally says:

    Thanks Peter,

    Diversity is a good idea but I imagine it needs more than summer jobs to work.

    You mention communities here that are growing and employment areas that are growing here too. Any more info on these? If you know of some examples of growing towns or employment areas, they would be interesting to read about.

    Personally, I don’t have a clue how to change things here in the face of the national trends you mention.

  5. Scott van Laer says:

    Interesting trends I agree. I know Brian Mann reported on this trend several times and it has been a discussion on forums. I am having a hard time understanding why I should take notice or care? The main point seems to be it will become more difficult to sustain services and perhaps even some hamlets themselves?

    I am not surprised at the study and it also seems logical that the Adirondacks would age and older americans consider this a wonderful place to live in retirement. If more people want to live in a city why try to change that trend? We all live here because it is rural so why try to entice young people to come here? Someone please tell me what I am missing.

    • Based on my own experience, the problem isn’t necessarily attracting newcomers. It’s making it so young people born and raised in the area can stay and make lives there. I’d be much happier living near where my home in the Adirondacks. Still, I also need a decent job that can help my off my student loans. There was nothing like that for me there, so off I went. This seems to be a pretty common story.

      So to me, the focus should be how to make it easier for young people who have strong ties to the area stay there. Some of the suggestions below (for example, increased broadband access) make me hopeful that in the future I’ll be able to come back while still doing work that interests me.

      • Scott van Laer says:

        That was the only reason I could really come up with to be concerned about the trend. Should we try to save every hamlet, even ones built for industrial purposes that are very small, like Standish? There seems to be a reasonable amount of jobs for maintenance of the tourist infrastructure, caretakers for second homes, working in hospitalities etc…There are not a lot of high salary occupations regionally. Were there ever? Seems like even high paid professionals like attorneys and M.D.’s who decide to live in the park do so knowing they could make more living in a city. I am still not really getting why we need to change a trend that is merely based on a young person’s personal values and priorities of where they choose to live. Higher paying jobs have always been in cities haven’t they? Isn’t this all just a lifestyle choice?

      • Outlier says:

        Retaining the young people born and raised in the region would preserve the existing non-diverse population. This is a non-starter, as the Adirondacks are doomed unless it diversifies it’s population. Fortunately, the president’s recent executive order will allow more undocumented immigrants to work in the region, leading to a more diverse Adirondacks.

        • Scott van Laer says:

          Doomed? How, why doomed? I am certainly in favor of diversity but there are many homogeneous areas, regions, nations that actually prosper.

  6. JC Steiniger says:

    More lucrative employment opportunities are only one of the reasons that young adults continue to gravitate toward urban centers. The cultural and social offerings of metro centers are also a big draw for recent grads. But I do agree – jobs is issue #1. We have much to offer here, and you have to look no further than your window -we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Who would not want to work here if they could? So – we can curse the darkness, or we can light a candle. I believe for many Adirondack communities that candle is broadband. With a faster internet connection many of us “telecommuters” would be able to spend more time here, or move here permanently. I am most anxious to see the impact of the many Adirondack fiber optic initiatives on employment – and by extension, population trends.

  7. Bob Meyer says:

    what this report also says is that young people value the urban experience more then the experience of the rural, natural enviornment. i don’t think this will change.
    the question we need to ask is, does this change as they become older, have families etc? if so then the reality is that places like the Adirondacks will have an older demographic. then the question that needs addressing is, what can be done to attract these folks to move to our beloved Park.
    realistically, some areas of the Park are destined to be even more sparcely populated [sorry Hamilton Co.] but much of the Park cna be and become more attractive to middle aged and retired folks with the right kind of smart growth. people like Pete Nelson AND others have written about what REALLY needs to be done to attract these folks.
    we need both govenmnent and private sector involvment to make this happen.
    remember, the Adirondacks ARE special. we here know this. part of the job is to spread the message! 🙂

  8. Dave Mason says:

    These trends are real. One luxury of our small numbers is it doesn’t take so much to turn things around.

    With respect to broadband, I can offer a few anecdotes from Keene. We completed a fiber-to-the-home project here a few years ago. About the same time, both hamlets got cell service as well. (you need both)

    Over the past few years, new couples have moved here, typically one with a local job and the other telecommuting.

    The school population bumped up by 9 or 10 this year. The entering kindergarten classes for the past 2 years have larger than the graduating classes. The school is winning awards, improving, not declining.

    The telecommuter jobs vary a lot, no 2 are alike. I’ve been told the internet has made existing businesses stronger too.

    Seasonal people do appear more often and/or stay longer.

    So it’s made a difference, subtly and slowly, but the feeling is an upward trend, more people around, etc. I’m told home buyers often ask if a house is connected and almost all are, or can be.

    I realize this is not hard data. There was a survey done a few years ago by Paul Smiths students that reached similar conclusions. But a few years have passed and ‘impact of internet’ in Keene would be a good research topic for someone to dig into.

    My summary would be this: Internet and cell service are necessary; they make it easier to get other positive things going. But they’re not the entire solution. It sounds corny but ‘it takes a village’ and we have that too.

  9. jay says:

    This is not a problem of just the ADK.It is all of NY State outside of the bloodsucking NY City.
    With the highest taxes of any State,Why not move out.
    Just look at the growth of the Southern States.It is simple choice.Go where the jobs are-low taxes-cheaper gas-affordable housing-better schools.We can not compete with this.That is where the changes must come.Too much money and energy spent on making more costly regulations in the Park.Development is treated as an enemy.
    Wake up NY as it will only get worse.

  10. Ghost of Eugene says:

    Well, yes. Much of this is obvious and certainly not unique to the Adirondacks. To paraphrase Sam Kinison, “Move to where the food is”. Although no longer young, I would love to live in the ADKs. I can’t. There is insufficient work. I am, however, privileged to be able to vacation and (eventually) retire there.

    Dave Mason’s observations regarding cell phone service and broadband ring true. Our house has neither cell service nor Internet service. Although that is part of the charm, it precludes us from spending extended time there while maintaining jobs elsewhere.

    I have to consider the unique private/public experience that is the Adirondacks. In one of my other stomping grounds, The Shenandoah National Park, all indigenous people were kicked out via eminent domain when it became a park. Glad that didn’t happen to the ADKs.

  11. New report finds urban preference for college educated young people for places to live | Protect the Adirondacks! says:

    […] This article also ran on the Adirondack Almanack. […]

  12. Hawthorn says:

    Two questions: 1. Why is a declining population a bad thing? Seriously. If people want to live elsewhere, what is wrong with that. 2. I happen to work with and speak to a lot of young adults and almost universally they prefer warmer climates than we have. Not sure why that is. Even people born and raised here, including my children, want to live some place warmer. Maybe global warming will take care of the problem!

  13. Elton says:

    The current urbanization trends in America have been linked to cities ability to provide quality of life, jobs, and social amenities that the Adirondacks have never had. As residents we’re quick to point out the pristine environment, tight-knit communities, and the rich cultural history of the Adirondacks. But our love for the area shouldn’t allow us to ignore history- it’s always been a struggle to live in the Adirondacks.
    Saratoga is the fastest growing city upstate, Malta is seeing incredible growth, and Glens Falls is poised to see a revival. Certainly part of the draw to these upstate cities is their proximity to the Adirondacks. Let’s not be dispirited by national trends that the Adirondacks have no significant influence on. Instead we should focus on high quality, sustainable, year-round, and locally based hospitality and tourism industries. Instead of trying to find ways to get more people to live here lets find innovative ways to protect our assets.
    Part of this should be a conversation on how the intrusion of secondary and seasonal homes into Adirondack hamlets stifles town’s abilities to create year-round, vibrant main-streets. In the last year I’ve seen Bolton Landing cut down 100 year old trees on main street to accommodate the development single use residential townhouses. The area will have fewer visitors and more sprawl because of it. Denser, mixed-use hamlet development is necessary to create vibrant year-round communities that people want to visit.

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