NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 27, 2007

For much of the past decade, business recruiters, cities and urban developers have focused on the young urban single professional, the so-called "dream demographic."  But analysis of migration data shows that the strongest job growth has consistently taken place in those regions -- such as Houston, Dallas, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham -- with the largest net in-migration of young, educated families ranging from their mid-20s to mid-40s, says Joel Kotkin, Presidential Fellow at Chapman University.


  • Urban centers that have been traditional favorites for young singles, such as Chicago, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, have experienced below-average job and population growth since 2000.
  • San Francisco and Chicago lost population during that period; even immigrant-rich New York City and Los Angeles County have shown barely negligible population growth in the last two years, largely due to a major out-migration of middle class families.
  • Conversely, family-friendly metropolitan regions have seen the biggest net gains of professionals, largely because they not only attract workers, but they also retain them through their 30s and 40s.

The evidence thus suggests that the obsession with luring singles to cities is misplaced. Instead, suggests Paul Levy, president of Philadelphia's Center City district association, the emphasis should be on retaining young people as they grow up, marry, start families and continue to raise them.

Such a shift in emphasis could mark a new beginning for many long-neglected urban neighborhoods across the country, says Kotkin.  It's time to recognize that today, as has been the case for millennia, families provide the most reliable foundation for successful economies.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "The Rise of Family-Friendly Cities," Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2007.

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