‘Youth Magnet’ Cities and Unemployment

Via Ryan Avent, The Wall Street Journal looks at Unemployment and Youth Magnet Cities:

[Portland] has for years been among the most popular urban magnets for college graduates looking to start their careers in a small city of like-minded folks. Now the jobs are drying up, but the people are still coming. The influx of new residents is part of the reason the unemployment rate in the Portland metropolitan area has more than doubled to 11.8% over the past year, and is now above the national average of 8.9%…

The worst recession in a generation is disrupting migration patterns and overturning lives across the country. Yet, cities like Portland, along with Austin, Texas, Seattle and others, continue to be draws for the young, educated workers that communities and employers covet. What these cities share is a hard-to-quantify blend of climate, natural beauty, universities and — more than anything else — a reputation as a cool place to live. For now, an excess of young workers is adding to the ranks of the unemployed. But holding on to these people through the downturn will help cities turn around once the economy recovers.

There’s a story about a guy who gets laid off from an alt-weekly in California, who moves to Portland to try and work for an alt-weekly there. What is that guy thinking?!?


I find the obsession with Portland bizarre. A friend of mine with a college degree moved near there from the Midwest to, as he described it, “work and live on a farm; low wages, but I get free housing as long as I’m working. I can then go visit Portland all the time.” I remember asking him if he was actually becoming a migrant laborer, and he wasn’t sure if that was in fact what he was signing up for. He moved back a half year later, and doesn’t talk about the farm.

Another friend, a dishwasher in central Illinois, got a hookup as a dishwasher in Portland, and was really excited – it was like hitting jackpot for a Portland job. Though he did have a dream, inspired by this book, to wash dishes in all 50 states.

My favorite related story was an artist friend in Chicago who was going to move to New York City from Chicago because that’s where “people lead real lives.” This conversation was a popular one among early 20s types and was incredibly annoying, moreso since my friend was broke and unemployable. He ended up moving there because he had a friend who was willing to sneak him onto a rooftop in Williamsburg, where he would then live. He promised to not tell the police or the landlord who was letting him up there if he was ever caught. And he could set up a small tent-like house and steal wireless from the floor below.

He then told us all about how he was really living in New York City while Chicago was so passé, and we’d have to respond “but, you’re homeless.”


Is this true about “Youth Magnet Cities” having higher unemployment? They give a list of the cities with highest increases in number of college educated 20-somethings. I wolframed* their unemployment numbers, and dividing it by the US Rate of 8.5% in March gives a 1.03. Take out the obvious outlier of Riverside, CA, and it’s .977. Here are the cities (drill down into show results from the link):


Austin is particularly low compared to the national average. I don’t see any reason to believe these cities are hurting in a particular way, compared to the nation as a whole. And I do see reasons to believe they are going to bounce back easier.

* – Yes. wolframed. There’s going to be a whole lot of that up in this humpy-bumpy. Especially since you can right click on graphs and equations and save them.

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2 Responses to ‘Youth Magnet’ Cities and Unemployment

  1. Steve Sailer says:

    Portland is the ultimate Stuff White People Like city because it is the whitest core city in America.


    Reporter Jonathan Tilove wrote a book called “The View from Martin Luther King Blvd.,” where he visited about 40 MLKs across the country. Portland’s MLK was the only one where white gentrifiers were pushing out blacks.

  2. Huh? says:

    I live in Austin and I can assure you, jobs are not plentiful here. There are thousands of UT students that are forced to find jobs in Dallas/Houston/San Antonio every year, not because they want to, but because Austin jobs are scarce. It might be a cool city, but unless you like bartending, it’s a job desert. Professional jobs are particularly scarce.

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