Where the Kids Are Heading

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3056953388_4512c89d0a.jpgThe Wall Street Journal asked six experts to come up with lists of the "next youth magnet cities." I was one of them. The top spot was a tie - D.C. and Seattle, followed by NYC, Portland (OR), Austin, San Jose, Denver, Raleigh-Durham, Dallas, Chicago, and Boston. You can see the list and read the full story here.

Below is what I sent to the Journal.

My Rankings
These are based on my own rankings of the best places for young, professional singles, aged 20-29 in Who's Your City?, as well as other rankings and surveys and my reading of current trends. The data are from Kevin Stolarick, additional analysis by Charlotta Mellander, and research assistance by Patrick Adler, my colleagues at the Martin Prosperity Institute.

1) New York City
The country's largest city was the top destination for recent graduates according to the career-cast survey noted below. The city's size affords migrants an economic diversity that simply cannot exist in smaller places. It's the place to be if you're in finance, fashion, entertainment, publishing, or even indie music. Also unparalleled is the city's mythic status, as a place to test one's mettle against the best and the brightest. One of the top five on my own rankings of the best places for young, single, 20-29-year-olds.

2) Washington, D.C
The public sector is ascendant and, in the eyes of many, Barack Obama is America's coolest boss. These factors will only bolster Washington, D.C., a city that is already a hotbed of young talent. 45.9 percent of Washington, D.C.'s workforce has a bachelor's degree or more, and young people enjoy positions of influence on congressional staffs and at think tanks. And it is a center for media, journalism, and blogging as well as high-tech. D.C. is the top city in my own rankings of best places for young singles aged 20-29. If I was 23 or 24 again, it's where I'd head.

3) San Francisco/ Silicon Valley
Still the world's high-tech hot spot. One of the top five on my own rankings. Great quality of life, a large stock of smart, driven young people, and fantastic restaurants and outdoor activities.

4) Chicago
If management or industry is your thing, Chicago is the place to be. It's the talent magnet for the midwest and beyond, drawing driven young people by the droves. It has great amenities, great nightlife, a spectacular waterfront, great restaurants, and it's affordable.

5) Boulder/ Denver
Yes, it's smaller than the others, but it packs a real punch. Boulder ranked No. 1 among all U.S. destinations on my own rankings of the best places for young singles 20-29. Now add in Denver and it has the size and scale to be a great place for young professionals. It has thriving, high-tech industries about the best outdoor recreation - from skiing to cycling - to be had anywhere.

6) L.A.
If you want a career in film, entertainment, fashion, or music, it's the place to be. Sure, it's crowded, pricey, and the traffic is horrible, but it has abundant sunshine, great temperatures, unbelievable beaches, and fantastic restaurants.

7) Boston
It's always been a great "stay-over" town for the thousands of regional college grads. This year, it surpassed NYC as the No. 1 destination for Harvard grads. It's the world center for management consulting with strong finance and high-tech industries. Not to mention a great place to stick around, work for awhile, and go back to grad school.

8) Seattle
A high-tech and lifestyle mecca in its own right with Amazon, Microsoft, and more. It's also a center for cutting-edge retail with Starbucks, Costco, and REI. Quality of place by the boatloads.

9) Austin
What can you say about a place whose motto is "Keep Austin Weird"? It remains a high-tech player, with great quality of life that's affordable. It's the indie music capital of the universe with SXSW and Austin City Limits and a great array of local venues. Plus, with residents like Lance Armstrong, it's a cyclist and outdoor enthusiast's paradise.

10) Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill
Another great high-tech, university, smart city, which boasts a mild climate, highly educated population, great outdoor activities, and a great music scene.

Runners-Up/Honorable Mention:

  • Madison, Wisconsin, and Ann Arbor, Michigan - Both great stay-over college towns that rank very high on my own rankings. College towns in general perform well in this demographic; they've coped reasonably well with the recession and are good places to stay or head, at least for a while
  • Atlanta and Minneapolis: Regional talent magnets for the southeast and Great Lakes/Plains respectively.
  • Outside the U.S.: London, Toronto, Shanghai, Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane.

Key factors affecting location of young, college-educated singles
Even with signs that the worst of the Great Recession is over, young people are understandably worried about their economic future. This past May, the Wall Street Journal reported that some of the past decade's "youth magnet" locations are losing their appeal as economic opportunities whither in cities like Phoenix, Seattle, Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Las Vegas, and others which led the nation in attracting young college grads from 2005 to 2007. So where are young, educated, single people heading?

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Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here
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