Young and educated flocking to close-in neighborhoods

Urban cores are getting the lion's share of increase in the young and educated. Source: City Observatory.

Talented young adults are continuing to choose urban cores, fueling economic growth and urban revitalization, according to a study

City Observatory, a research-oriented website focused on cities, released “The Young and Restless and the Nation’s Cities” October 20, which details the impacts of the growing numbers of educated young adults choosing to live in cities.

Based in Portland, Oregon, City Observatory is run by economist Joe Cortright and funded by the Knight Foundation.

The Young and Restless are defined as 25- to 34-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education. This group is increasingly moving to the close-in neighborhoods of the nation’s large metropolitan areas, fueling economic growth and urban revitalization.

Over the past two decades, research has documented the links between a well-educated population to economic success, showing that having a well educated, highly skilled population is the key to higher wages and productivity.

“These talented young people are driving the renaissance in urban living currently underway in America’s cities,” said Cortright. “Having a well-educated, highly skilled population is key to higher wages and productivity. Policy makers would be wise to figure out ways to attract—and keep—these young people.”

In the great majority of cities, educated young adults are increasing faster than the population as a whole. Source: City Observatory.

More than a million talented young adults move to a different state each year.  Where they settle has a major impact on the economic outlook for the places they choose.

The report’s findings on include:

Choosing bigger cities. Well-educated young adults are disproportionately found in a few metropolitan areas. Two-thirds of the nation’s 25 to 34-year-olds with a Bachelor’s degree live in the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas, (those with a million or more population).

Moving to the center. Young college-educated adults are much more likely to choose close-in urban neighborhoods, within 3 miles of downtown.  In the aggregate, they are more than twice as likely to live in these neighborhoods, and 49 of the nation’s 51 largest metro areas saw increases in 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees in these close-in neighborhoods.

Businesses are following. Businesses are increasingly locating in or near urban centers to better tap into the growing pool of well-educated young workers, and because these central city locations enable firms to better compete for talent locally and recruit talent from elsewhere.

Startups want them. The availability of talented young workers also plays a key role in the formation and growth of new firms. Startups and young firms employ disproportionately large numbers of young, well-educated workers.

Driving revitalization. Talented young adults are playing a key role in driving urban revitalization. In the 25 large metropolitan areas whose close in urban neighborhoods have experienced population growth since 2000, the increase in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with a four-year degree has accounted a majority of the net increase in population in 19 cities, and all of the net increase in population in 7 cities.

Launched October 10, City Observatory is a "virtual think tank" that covers urban policy topics such as transportation, housing, gentrification, place making, economic opportunity and industry clusters.

Cortright has been researching the migration patterns of young workers for more than a decade. This work has examined the attitudes and location preferences of educated young adults and documented that 25- to 34-year-olds, especially those with a four-year degree or higher level of education, were systematically moving away from some metropolitan areas and toward others. 

Close-in neighborhoods have always attracted more than their share of young adults, but that share has increased tremendously in the last two decades:

Most cities have seen a tremendous increase in the young and educated since 2000:

Also from the report, the list of major firms moving downtown is impressive:
Characteristics of the young and educated are presented in the following table:

Download “The Young and Restless and the Nation’s Cities” report at