Academic journal article International Journal of Economic Development

Economy versus Lifestyle in the Inter-Metropolitan Migration of the Young: A Preliminary Look at the 2000 Census

Academic journal article International Journal of Economic Development

Economy versus Lifestyle in the Inter-Metropolitan Migration of the Young: A Preliminary Look at the 2000 Census

Article excerpt


This paper a measures net migration into (out of) 100 U.S. metropolitan areas between 1990 and 2000 by people aged 15-24 in 1990, modeling variation as a function of economic growth in the late 1980s, amenity variables in 1990-1993, and each metropolitan area's technology base in 1990. Multi-collinearity among independent variables is addressed by creating oblique factors to reduce seven variables to three; and through use of path analysis to specify direct and indirect causation (correlation) explicitly. Results suggest that economic growth and technology were more important drivers of youth migration in the 1990s than amenities. Because the study used comprehensive, but relatively traditional measures of place amenities, it was unable to directly test recent hypotheses about effects of hip, "Bohemian" culture and ethnic or gender preference diversity on the migration decisions of people in this age cohort.


For economic development professionals of each era, there seems to be one indispensable policy lever for creating economic growth. In the 1960s and 70s, it was the need to drive down tax and labor costs. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was sports venues and downtown revitalization. It may be too early to tell, but this is shaping up to be the decade when development practitioners feel compelled to do one thing above all others: attract educated young people to their jurisdictions. Consider, for example, the recent proliferation of state programs designed to prevent the "brain drain" of young people trained in local universities (Chronicle of Higher Education, 1998; McLaughlin, 1999; Associated Press, 2000; Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute, 2000; Tornatsky et. al., 1998).

This new conventional wisdom is grounded in academic research as well as several broad, stylized facts. Many economists argue that human capital has replaced physical capital as the primary driver of economic growth (Lucas, 1988; Romer, 1990; Mathur, 1999). This means that the policy maker's first goal must be to attract smart people--not plants and equipment--to his/her own patch of ground.

The research university has also received considerable attention as a source of entrepreneurial growth in regions (Beeson and Montgomery, 1993; Bania, Eberts, and Fogarty, 1993). Educated young people are both an integral part of the research process at these institutions and an inevitable by-product of their broader mission (Florida, 1999; Bound, et al., 2002). If we look at metropolitan areas in the 1990s, we see positive correlations among per-capita income growth, concentration in industries typically regarded as high-tech--such as information science and biotechnology--and a high proportion of younger workers (1). It is logical to suppose that younger workers are disproportionately concentrated in cutting-edge sectors of the economy. They will migrate toward--and also propel forward--those regions that succeed in the so-called New Economy (2).

What factors, then, affect migration patterns of the young and educated? Universities are one answer: Ann Arbor had 11,000 more 20-21 year olds in 2000 than we would expect by aging the same cohort living there in 1990--and 8,700 fewer 30-34 year-olds (3). High-paying job opportunities are a useful, if not always necessary, condition for attracting graduates. Some young people are clearly attracted by the "bright lights" of cities like New York and San Francisco, and will be happy to serve cappuccinos until they get their big break.

In several recent reports and a widely-read book, geographer Richard Florida highlighted the role played by America's young "creative class" in the recent high-tech boom, and hypothesized that lifestyle amenities are a crucial location factor for this group of workers (Florida, 2000, 2002; Florida and Gates, 2001). While Florida is not the first to write about amenities as a source of economic growth (see, e. …

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