Friday, October 28, 2011

Washington DC Becoming Hub for Emerging Adults

The Washington Post has been reporting this year on how the nation's capital city is becoming a hub for people in the emerging adulthood age range (here and here). According to the second linked article:

About 190,000 of the city’s 600,000 residents are between the ages of 20 and 34, a 23 percent jump. The 35,000 additional people in that age group fueled the city’s entire population gain between 2000 and 2010.

To see how unique Washington, DC really is, I did a little extra research. The U.S. Census Bureau creates what are known as "population pyramids," in which horizontal bars are stacked from the bottom (young ages) to the top (old ages). The wider a given bar, the bigger the population for that age range. The pyramid for D.C. has a pronounced widening for the ages 20-35 relative to other ages, a pattern not seen nearly as much in states such as California, New York, Texas, or even Washington, home of trendy Seattle.

Given how expensive the DC area is, it seems counterintuitive that it would attract young adults. The main reason cited for the capital's drawing power is the seemingly steady availability of government-related jobs. That, and the "hip" nightlife and other amenities. The idea of a reinforcing cycle of amenities (restaurants, bars, shops, parks) attracting bright young adults, and vice versa, reminds me of Richard Florida's writings on cities and the "creative class."

An area of speculation raised by the Post articles is whether Washington, DC's young adults who, for example, are currently single, or married and childless, will remain in the city after starting families or move to the suburbs surrounding DC (or elsewhere).

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