Review: "Cool Cities" Indicator Measures Millenial Migration

Brookings Institute

Review by: Brad Segal

Brookings Institute LogoThe premium placed on education, talent and jobs looms large for downtowns as a new trend in our recent Global Trends REVISITEDupdate. Due to changes in the economy converging with shifting demographics, the United States is looking at shortages of skilled workers before the end of the decade. Most highly desired will be the young, skilled millennial generation that is plugged into new technologies and areas of innovation. The good news for downtowns is that these populations are predisposed to moving into urban areas. If downtowns can capture this highly desired demographic, the theory is that businesses will stay or follow.

Brookings, a reliable and credible resource for all trends urban, has created an index that allows cities to measure their ability to attract young professionals. The benchmark recently appeared in a blog post by Brookings demographer William Frey entitled "Young Adults Choose Cool Cities During Recession". Through the use of census data, Brookings is able to determine the in-migration of persons in the 25 to 34 age range, the demographic most desired in the next economic cycle. The initial report compared the "hot" in-migration cities from pre- and post-recession. Before the recession, top destinations were Riverside, Phoenix, Atlanta, Houston and Charlotte. Post-recession, the top areas are now Denver, Houston, Dallas, Seattle and Austin. Reasons for the shift include the availability of jobs and, increasingly, the overall cache of the city and the ability for young populations to easily fit in.

The Downtown Denver Partnership provides an illustration on how to use the Brookings data as part of an effort to position downtown as a hotbed for young talent. In its recent publication entitled "Downtown Denver: A Magnet for the Future Workforce", the Partnership provides a 16-page case on why attracting the young workforce is important, and how well Downtown Denver is doing to achieve it. In addition to Brookings, the Partnership cites a couple dozen national and local sources in a report with 47 footnotes.

Another illustration of the Brookings data is offered by our recent blog rant on politics in Colorado, entitled "On Civil Unions and Economic Development". We argue that the recent battle over civil unions in our home state is as much about economic development as it is social equity. If we want the young, highly skilled workforce to continue to flow to our state, we need to embody the values of tolerance and diversity that are important to them. It helps to have the facts on your side when waxing self-righteously about an issue!