America’s social fabric has been regularly reshaped by great migrations—of pioneers westward, of immigrants and farmers to rising industrial cities, of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North, of families outward from cities to suburbs to exurbs.
"The Uneven Fortunes of America's Cities"
Click here for a chart showing numbers of college graduates in various U.S. cities.
Today, a demographic realignment that may prove just as significant is under way: the mass relocation of highly skilled, highly educated, and highly paid Americans to a relatively small number of metropolitan regions, and a corresponding exodus of the traditional lower and middle classes from these same places. Such geographic sorting of people by economic potential, on this scale, is unprecedented. I call it the “means migration.”
The divergence of housing prices nationwide illustrates the means migration powerfully. Home values go up and down, but according to an analysis by the economists Joseph Gyourko, Chris Mayer, and Todd Sinai, since 1950 a handful of “superstar cities” (including central cities and their suburbs) has emerged nationwide—places where growth in housing prices has consistently and rapidly outpaced the average national increase, and where growth in housing supply is limited. You could probably guess most of them—cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, and Denver; the affluent suburbs of Manhattan; innovation centers such as Silicon Valley, Austin, and the Research Triangle in North Carolina.