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American Elites Fleeing Big Cities for the Heartland

America’s skilled and educated are continuing to flee the country’s glamorous metropolises for the more affordable cities of the Sun Belt and Great Plains. Joel Kotkin writes in the Daily Beast:

Despite hopeful claims from density advocates that the Great Recession and the housing bust ended this trend, the latest census data shows that Americans have continued choosing places that are affordable enough to offer opportunity, and space. […]

Houston, Charlotte, Raleigh, Las Vegas, Nashville, and San Antonio…experienced increases in the number of college-educated residents of nearly 40 percent or more over the decade, roughly twice the level of growth as in “brain centers” such as Boston, San Francisco, San Jose (Silicon Valley), or Chicago. Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas each have added about 300,000 college grads in the past decade, more than greater Boston’s pickup of 240,000 or San Francisco’s 211,000.

Furthermore, Kotkin points out that educated elites have been drawn to these cities by the growth of “brown jobs” in the manufacturing, agriculture, and energy sectors. Add to this favorable climates, lower taxes and a higher quality of life, and it’s not hard to see why these cities still appeal to America’s best and brightest.

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  • ojfl

    This is good news for those cities, as long as those elites do not take the policies with them. If they do, bad news for the cities.

  • Evan Seitchik

    Hey, us folks in Boston aren’t that far behind, we just live in a small city! On a per capita basis, our college grad growth rate is tied with Houston, and only about 7% behind Atlanta.

    Though maybe that’s not the right metric. In 2009, the Boston metro area had about 360,000 students. Assuming that hasn’t changed much, if about a fifth of those are graduating any given year, then net of graduates who immigrate here, we keep about half of the college graduates we produce. I couldn’t find any numbers on Atlanta, but I’m fairly sure that even though they’re larger they have fewer students than Boston. If so, and they’re gaining new college grads faster, then their net retention rate is better. Maybe we do have some catching up to do after all.

  • Luke Lea

    I am not sure if I would describe them as America’s elites, but the mild winters and less expensive real estate are certainly a draw to people up north.

    The small towns and rural areas around Atlanta are even better — beautiful rolling landscapes, less congested — than Atlanta itself. But Atlanta is where the jobs are so that’s where people move to.

  • Bay Area Billy

    Walter – you’re being disingenuous about the Bay Area. First of all, the data that Kotkin links to in his article (the one showing how hot Houston’s growth is) says SF’s GMP (Gross Metro Product) is only $300 bn. That’s true ONLY if you don’t also include the San Jose metro area, which is a separate unit (and not listed in Houston’s chart). If you add up SJ’s GMP to SF’s GMP and you get a total of ~$500 bn! That’s HIGHER than Chicago’s GMP, with fewer people to boot (for a higher GMP per capita). That’s right, the whole Bay Area now produces more economic output than Chicago! Plus, if people are really “fleeing” the Bay Area, why is every open house I go to on the weekend packed? Why are houses for sale receiving multiple ALL CASH offers? Why are rents and housing values going up by 10% p.a.? Also, I’ll take our Bay Area climate over Texas’ or the Great Plains any day of the week…

    • JWJ

      Regular middle class (income) people and lower middle class do flee the overall Bay Area.
      Home prices about $350-$400 per sq ft.
      Apartments about $1500/month/per bedroom.

      High level execs and founders can afford that. Middle management, not so much.

      • Bay Area Billy

        Tell me why all the open houses are FLOODED with people and prices are rising. There’s plenty of demand! Basically, it means people who “flee” can’t hack it here. They’re losers. They’re welcome to get out to leave more for us winners.

        • ronan

          Is that you, Charlie Sheen?

        • truthinnumbers

          BABs: Who is going to pour your coffee, walk your dogs, police your streets, pick up your garbage, etc?

          • Bay Area Billy

            LOL – are you kidding. Yeah, the Bay Area is devoid of coffee-pourers, dog-walkers, crime is rampant, garbage just lies on the street waiting to be collected…it’s a horrible post-apocalyptic wasteland. WRM keeps sticking to his guns that CA is a hellhole. Well, the Central Valley has big problems – Stockton bankrupt, Sacto is a worthless hole in the ground…but us “elites” here on the coast will be fine. The places in the state with the highest unemployment rates consistently vote Republican! Now, other places (like AZ, NV, TX may be growing faster. Those who want to move to Texas are free to do so, and those who do are those who can’t “hack it” in the places where the elites want to live. Coastal California will always generate a lot of income and a lot of jobs, and we’ll be fine if we have to pay a little more in taxes and for labor – that’s the price of success. But if it wasn’t for us, the state economy would be a lot worse… But, WRM, keep spinning that fantasy that CA is dead in the water… love it…

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