Friday, April 01, 2011

Brain Gain Detroit

The final tally is in. Downtown Detroit is a magnet for young college-educated adults. CEOs for Cities with the surprising good news:

Urban cores attracted increased numbers of young adults even in metropolitan areas that were losing population and hemorrhaging talented young workers. Cleveland and Detroit, both of which experienced an exodus of 25 to 34 year-olds over the past decade, saw an increase in the number of young adults with a college degree in their close-in neighborhoods.

There is a chart titled, "Percentage Growth in 25 to 34 Year Old Population with a Four-Year Degree, 2000 to 2005-09, by Metropolitan Area, Close in Neighborhoods and Balance of MSA" with all the data. What is interesting about Detroit and Cleveland is how well the urban core fared compared to the rest of the MSA. Both metros lost young talent.

Across the board, Rust Belt cities do very well in attracting this prized demographic cohort. Rust Belt Chic is a hit with the Millennials. I think this is harbinger of good things to come.

Another trend is the lack of economic resiliency in US suburbs. You don't want to weather a recession outside of the urban core. From Brookings:

Suburban Share of Unemployment Growth, December 2007- December 2010: Top 99 Metro Areas*

Public services, particularly transportation, don't extend well into the suburbs. This creates a captive labor market (anyone who has studied gender and employment knows this tale all too well) that is extremely vulnerable to exogenous shocks. Imagine what high gas prices do to the journey to work for those stuck in female-dominated jobs. Compound that with fiscal crisis and you'll begin to appreciate the problem with the dominant economic geography of the last few decades (suburban growth).

The overall decline in geographic mobility is particularly troubling. The unemployed are stuck. They can't move or commute to where the jobs are. If you are going to fund relocation, make sure the residential destination is in the urban core.

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