Young and Restless

The Young and Restless—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.

Using data from the recently released American Community Survey, this report examines population change in the 51 metropolitan areas with 1 million or more population, and focuses on the change in population in close-in neighborhoods, those places within 3 miles of the center of each metropolitan area’s primary central business district.

Urban cores attracted increased numbers of young adults even in metropolitan areas that were losing population and hemorrhaging talented young workers.  Metropolitan Buffalo, Cleveland, New Orleans and Pittsburgh, all of which experienced population declines over the past decade, saw an increase in the number of young adults with a college degree in their close-in neighborhoods.  (In these cases, the numerical increases were from small bases, but show that the urban core is attractive even in these economically troubled regions).

Overall these close-in neighborhoods have higher levels of educational attainment among their young adult population than the overall metropolitan areas of which they are a part.  The college attainment rate of young adults living in close-in neighborhoods in the largest metropolitan areas increased to 55 percent from 43 percent in 2000.  Outside the three-mile urban core, educational attainment rates increased slightly from about 31 percent to about 35 percent.

Talented young workers are both economically important in their own right—playing especially important roles in meeting the labor needs of fast-growing knowledge-based firms—and also as a kind of indicator of the overall health and attractiveness of a metropolitan area.  And despite the decline in overall migration rates in the U.S., they remain highly mobile.  With a million young adults moving each year, the stakes are large.

To see how your city fares, peruse the tables and map below:


Cover Photo courtesy of Total Due and Flickr Creative Commons.

Focus: Detroit’s Young and Restless

Last month, we released our Young and Restless report, tracing the growth of well-educated young adults in in the nation’s largest metro areas. We found that across the nation, college-educated 25 to 34 year olds were much more likely than other metro area residents to choose to live in close-in urban neighborhoods.  While the trend has been strongest in the cities that are well known as talent magnets, our research shows that the pattern holds even for cities that have been struggling.

One of the cities that has experienced the greatest outflows of talent over the past decade or more has been Detroit.  But there are hopeful signs that well-educated young adults are playing a key role in helping to revitalize that city’s urban core.  In this week’s Time, columnist Rana Foroohar describes some of the unfolding efforts in Detroit to tap into the growing demand for urban living.

In the article, Quicken Loans’ CEO Dan Gilbert explains that in order to compete for talent, his firm couldn’t be located in the suburbs.  Detroit is turning up as Foroohar explains because talented young workers increasingly want to live in cities, and the companies that look to employ them are drawn to these same places.


The full article is available in the November 24 edition of Time, and for subscribers is available online here.

Young and Restless: How is your city doing?

We just released our first CityReport looking at the “Young and Restless,” detailing where young talent is going in the U.S.- and why it matters. (Download the report here.) Here we show how the nation’s largest cities do with this important demographic.

The Young and Restless–25 to 34 year-olds with a 4-year degree or higher–play a critical role driving local economic development. “The most successful economic development policy is to attract and retain smart people and then get out of their way,” Edward Glaeser, Harvard economist, recently told the New York Times.

So how is your metro doing? Our data show how the nation’s largest metro’s are performing in three dimensions:

1. How well educated are your young adults?

2. How large is the Young and Restless cohort in your city?

3. How well are your urban core neighborhoods doing in attracting young adults?

The interactive data presented below provides the answers to all these questions.  The first tab shows the four-year attainment rate of 25 to 34 year-olds in each of the nation’s 51 largest metro areas (those with one million or more in population). You can sort by columns to see the differences among the metros. For example, Boston, Washington D.C., and San Francisco have the highest rates of college attainment in both 2000 and 2012, but Riverside, Buffalo, LA and Pittsburgh all had the greatest change in educational attainment over the time period.

The Young and Restless make up a much larger fraction of the adult population and workforce in some cities than in others.  The second tab shows the percentage of the adult population between 25 and 34 years of age with a four-year or higher degree, which is a good indicator of the economic impact of this group in your metro area. Washington D.C., Boston, and San Francisco top the 2012 list, as expected, but up and coming cities like Austin, Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle make the top 10.

Our third tab drills down to the city center and looks at how well urban core neighborhoods attracting young adults. Over the last several decades, well-educated young adults have become increasingly likely to locate in the urban cores of cities–those places within 3 miles of the center of each metropolitan area’s primary central business district. It has also been clear that much of this migration has been by young people. So how many of these talented young adults are moving to urban cores—and where are they going? The number of young adults in the core shows how strong the ‘critical mass’ of young adults is—and overall measures how well the core itself is doing. Some cities like St. Louis and Miami have more than doubled the number of these talented young adults in their urban cores in just the last decade, with L.A., Baltimore and San Diego very close to doing the same.

Finally, the fourth tab presents a map showing for each metro area, the number of 25 to 34 year olds with a 4-year degree or more living in close-in neighborhoods in 2010, as the percentage increase from 2000-2010. (Hover over any city to see how well it did in attracting talented young adults!)

So what does this all mean? We know that talented young workers are a strong indicator of strong urban economies. Because young workers are highly mobile, and become less so as they age, attracting young workers today is one key to increasing metro educational attainment. To see more information on how talent drives development, see our Talent & Prosperity card deck.

Is Portland really where young people go to retire?

Forget the quirky, slacker stereotype, the data show people are coming to Portland to start businesses.


A recent New York Times magazine article “Keep Portland Broke,” echoed a meme made popular by the satirical television show “Portlandia” asking whether the city will always be a retirement community for the young.

Far from being a retirement venue for the precocious indolent, the city is in fact a beehive of social and cultural innovation and entrepreneurship.

Critics are to be forgiven if they mistake a different set of interests and sometimes values for a disinterest in “traditional” work.

And we’re not talking individually pedigreed free-range chickens or artisanal pickles (although you’ll find those, too).

The truth is the young adults in Portland are disproportionately entrepreneurial. Among college educated 25 to 34 year olds, fully nine percent are self-employed, a rate half again greater than that of other large metropolitan areas—and ranking Portland third for self-employment among metros with a million or more population.

Among the nation’s 51 largest metro areas—all those with a million or more population, Portland ranks fourth in small businesses per capita, fourth in self-employment, seventh in patents per capita and fourteenth in venture capital per capita. And true to form, the city shines when it comes to edgy and creative: according to Forbes, Portland ranked seventh in Bandcamp, third in Kickstarter, and third in Indie-Go-Go among US cities.

And the city is alive with creative endeavors of all kinds. The city has more than 600 food carts, the largest concentration of microbreweries of any large city in the US.

Portland is home to the nation’s leading cluster of athletic and outdoor gear and apparel firms, including the world headquarters of Nike and Columbia Sportswear and the North American headquarters of adidas. And there are more than 400 other firms in the industry cluster—most of them started locally, and making Portland one of the hottest places on the planet for designers.

Arts and culture. Indy bands. A prolific, inventive food scene. Strong and innovative clusters of software and semiconductor firms. A robust, world-class athletic gear and apparel cluster.

And, at the end of the day, the claims of indolent retirement fall in the face of simple and compelling data about the region’s unemployment rate. In 2012, the unemployment rate for 25 to 34 year olds with a four-year degree or higher level of education in Portland was 4.8 percent—a bit higher than the average for large metropolitan areas (4.0%), but the same as Houston, and lower than Atlanta and Chicago (5.2%), Los Angeles (8.3%) Las Vegas (7.2%) and—attention New York Times—New York (5.7%).

This new generation is doing new and different things. It is keeping Portland weird. And some of what is happening will seem bizarre or disconcerting to those who’ve grown settled in their ways. But Oregonians are pretty much oblivious to this kind of derision from outsiders: we’re content to do what we want because it makes sense to us, not because it passes muster with critics from somewhere else.

There’s actually a long history of that here in Portland. Back in the 1960s, at a time when adult Americans generally didn’t sweat in public if they could avoid it, people in this area started running and jogging for health. What was originally odd behavior—grown men and women in shorts and t-shirts out running along public streets—presaged a national and global trend in fitness. And one guy started a business selling Japanese sneakers to these joggers out of the back of his 1964 Plymouth Valiant station wagon. The company Phil Knight started—Nike–is today one of the world’s most recognized brands and the global leader in sports apparel. Not every weird little habit ultimately leads a Fortune 500 company, but a surprising number of successes emerge people were weren’t afraid to be different.

Joe Cortright’s earlier rejoinder to the New York Times article on Portland appears on CityLab.

Photo courtesy of Frank Fujimoto at Flickr Creative Commons