NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

America's Young and Restless Abandon Cities for Suburbs

August 4, 2011

For well over a decade urban boosters have heralded the shift among young Americans from suburban living and toward dense cities.  Yet evidence from the last Census shows the opposite: a marked acceleration of movement not into cities but toward suburban and exurban locations, says Joel Kotkin, a Distinguished Presidential Fellow at Chapman University.

Simply put, when 20-somethings get older, they do things like marry, start businesses, settle down and start having kids.  An analysis of the past decade's Census data by demographer and National Center for Policy Analysis adjunct fellow Wendell Cox shows this.  Cox looked at where 25- to 34-year-olds were living in 2000 and compared this to where they were living by 2010, now aged 35 to 44:

  • In the past 10 years, this cohort's presence grew 12 percent in suburban areas while dropping 22.7 percent in the core cities.
  • Overall, this demographic expanded by roughly 1. 8 million in the suburbs while losing 1.3 million in the core cities.
  • Unlike younger adults, who are often footloose and unattached, people between the ages of 35 and 44 tend to be putting down roots.
  • As a result, they constitute the essential social ballast for any community, city or suburb.

Losing this population represents a great, if rarely perceived, threat to many regions, particular older core cities.  Rust Belt centers such as Cleveland and Detroit have lost over 30 percent of this age group over the decade.  It's time for developers and planners to look more closely at how young adults as they enter their 30s vote with their feet, says Kotkin.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "Why America's Young and Restless Will Abandon Cities for Suburbs," Forbes, July 20, 2011.

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