Where are all the young people moving?

July 27, 2016

By Tony DeLisi

The past few years, we have heard a lot about the war for talent. Businesses fiercely compete to hire and retain the brightest and most skilled workers. Communities strive to attract and keep younger residents. Educators seek to connect their students to fields of study that promise rewarding careers.

Our nation is realizing that talent is one of our most important and increasingly rare assets. There are a myriad of ways to examine and address this topic. Before we begin looking from every angle, it helps to understand where we stand today. Examining which metros are gaining and losing young adults will help illuminate the social, economic, and geographic factors affecting talent location.

Avalanche analyzed the latest US Census American Community Survey data to better understand the dynamics of migration in America – in particular the movement of young adults between 25 and 34 years old.

At some point in the five years from 2010 to 2014, 27% of all Americans moved to a different county. Young adults (25 to 34 years old) were one of the largest migrating groups – making up one-quarter of all Americans that moved during this period.

So where are young adults moving? 

Avalanche examined migration trends for America’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. For each metro, we calculated the net migration of 25-34 year olds between 2010 and 2014, and divided this by the metro’s total population in 2014. This percentage shows which metros have gained and which have lost the most young adults relative to their size.

(Note: To capture a community’s relative position, we chose to examine the percentage of young adults attracted or lost versus total growth. The New York City metro, with nearly 20 million residents, lost a higher total number of young adults than most communities, but relative to its total population, it does not break the top ten.

Migration Map

The Top 10 Metros Gaining Young Talent
(Net % population gain from 25-34 year old migration relative to total population)

  1. Colorado Springs, CO – 2.7%
  2. Austin, TX – 2.5%
  3. Denver, CO – 2.4%
  4. Columbia, SC – 2.1%
  5. Portland, OR – 1.8%
  6. Bakersfield, CA – 1.5%
  7. Des Moines, IA – 1.3%
  8. Durham-Chapel Hill, NC – 1.3%
  9. Seattle, WA – 1.2%
  10. Charlotte, NC – 1.1%

The Top 10 Metros Losing Young Talent
(Net % population loss from 25-34 year old migration relative to total population)

  1. San Diego, CA – 1.5%
  2. Provo, UT – 1.4%
  3. Toledo, OH – 1.3%
  4. Greensboro, NC – 1.3%
  5. Syracuse, NY – 1.0%
  6. Jackson, MS – 1.0%
  7. New Haven, CT – 1.0%
  8. El Paso, TX – 1.0%
  9. Wichita, KS – 0.8%
  10. Youngstown, OH – 0.7%

Many of the top 10 net attractors of young talent have concerted initiatives aimed at recruiting talent and investing in quality of place assets that appeal to that demographic. Other successful metros have embraced strategies that include aligning educational programs with business needs, encouraging a diverse mix of housing and social infrastructure, and pursuing target industries that offer competitive wages and complete career pathways.

Over the coming months, Avalanche will share other articles exploring this topic in more detail. If your community is interested in raising its stature as a magnet for young talent, contact us. We offer a variety of solutions to help communities understand their labor shed, align education programs, and market to skilled workers.