Austin is widely seen as the epitome of what might be termed a hometown/boomtown ideal in North America urban policy. By this I mean that the contemporary urban policy orthodoxy in North America suggests that successful cities must effectively blend a boomtown atmosphere – a vibrant economy, usually one structured around specific economic clusters such as semiconductors and electronics, computers and peripherals, and film and media – with a high quality of life which makes the place attractive as a hometown for business owners and their most valued employees (McCann, 2004). Austin is a city with a well-developed and still expanding technology sector, a growing population, a relatively low cost of living, an attractive environment, vibrant nightlife, and a strong arts sector, anchored by the music and movie industries.
Oh, to be the "Next Austin". For the most part, Austin as a destination is reinforced. The Madisons of the world are still waiting for the Creative Class dividend. The same could said about the "Next Silicon Valley" aspiration. The Bay Area couldn't ask for a better branding campaign and other cities are footing the bill.
We're now in the midst of a backlash against Creative Class geographical imaginations. The buzz about abandoning too expensive New York City for more authentic and affordable Cleveland influences migration. A new set of mesofacts are percolating among college students:
Young artists are leaving New York and looking elsewhere
The dream of moving to the big city may be changing.
In recent years, post-industrial cities along the Rust Belt and in the South have experienced a substantial surge in the number of young people moving in. According to The Cleveland Sun, the city, despite having lost 17 percent of its overall population in the last decade, has doubled its downtown population, with a majority of these new residents between the ages of 21 and 35. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that for the first time in decades, more young people have moved in — rather than moved out — St. Louis. And according to Pittsburghlive.com, about 70 percent of Pittsburg’s new residents in 2011 were under the age of 35.
This may be because people are getting priced out of cities that have traditionally been popular among young people. According to the Council for Community and Economic Research, out of the top five most expensive cities to live in the U.S., three were in the New York City metropolitan area. In 2011, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Portland, NYC and Savannah all experienced a minimum rent hike of six percent. According to the Living Wage Project, living in NYC costs $11.86 an hour.
As young people face sky-high living costs on top of even tougher unemployment rates, the big city may not have the same pull. According to a Brookings Institute study, the “Biggest Losers” in net migration of peoples between the ages of 25 and 34 was the Los Angeles Metro area, which lost 78,265 of these residents between 2005 and 2010. The second “Biggest Loser” was the New York Metro area, which lost 69,352 of its young residents.
The hemorrhage of young people from big cities may be the gain of smaller cities such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland, Flint and about a dozen others once considered gritty industrial wastelands. Two cities in particular — Detroit and New Orleans — have risen above recent hardships to become havens for the young and the hip.
By now, the data narrative is familiar. In and of itself, that should be remarkable. However, the feting of Detroit and New Orleans is cliché. Many quibble with the analysis and express skepticism. In terms of migration, none of that matters. The young and geographically mobile have a new place fetish, a different itch to scratch.
The last recession has put an exclamation point on the reshuffled landscape. Creative Class thinking is mainstream urban planning. Cities are chasing yesterday's hot trends. The global economy has swung in favor of Pittsburgh over Portland and Hamilton over Toronto. Today's story in a college newspaper is tomorrow's migration.