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Despite frequent media reports and city planners’ hopes to the contrary, “white flight” is stronger than ever, data from last year’s census show.The 2000 census showing an explosion of 25-34 year-olds living in inner cities was cited by urban planners and demographers as evidence that American youth were reversing their parents’ movements and were moving back to the city. But the newer data shows that this trend has now reversed itself: this generation, now 10 years older, has moved back to the suburbs to settle down.
In the last 10 years, this group’s presence grew 12% in the suburbs and shrunk by 22.7% in “historic core cities,” like New York and San Francisco, according to Joel Kotkin at Forbes.
Kotkin says that cities are placing too much emphasis on being “hip” and “cool”—in other words, putting too much effort into attracting a younger crowd, and not enough effort into keeping them around when they get older and inevitably seek more settled surroundings.
“These findings should inform the actions of those who run cities. Cities may still appeal to the ‘young and restless,’ but they can’t hold millennials captive forever. Even relatively successful cities have turned into giant college towns and “post-graduate” havens — temporary way stations before people migrate somewhere else. This process redefines cities from enduring places to temporary resorts.
“It’s time for developers and planners to look more closely at how young adults as they enter their 30s vote with their feet. Unless there has been a mind-numbing change in attitude or an unexpected return to good governance in cities, young adults entering middle age will continue their shift toward suburban and lower-density areas in the decade ahead, upending the predictions of most pundits, planners and development experts.
Hats off to Walter Russell Mead for directing us to this story.
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