Friday, April 12, 2013

The graying of Ann Arbor

In an Ypsi/Arbor Exit Interview on, Newcombe Clark talks about the demographic shift we're experiencing in Washtenaw County:
...over the last 30 years, the overall population of Washtenaw doubled, the same demographic balance wasn’t maintained. The net result is that a town that was once balanced, if not dominated (at least from a voting block and commercial market standpoint) by the young, is now overweighed towards the old. Many towns in America have similar demographics today. And, it’s worth noting, none of these towns are doing well today. There’s quite a bit of research on why this is, but most of it boils down to this – cities with lots of young people, who have lots of extra time to work and money to spend, tend to do better.

Growth… and frankly, in America today, if you’re not growing, you’re suffering… has been shown to be only possible with lots of young people of working age and ambition. Technology, being borderless, isn’t a driving factor economically. It’s pure math – when you’re young, you can be more mobile, and you can more easily move to cities that give you the opportunities you require. You take your money and your labor with you to these places. Other demographic groups, with less disposable means, tend to benefit from this migration if it goes towards them. They tend to suffer as it flows elsewhere.

I’m not advocating replacing any older citizen with someone who’s been around the sun less. I’m saying, however, there are consequences for all ages if so little of your total population is 20 to 35 years old.

Based on the projections from SEMCOG, which you can see below, these trends are expected to continue through 2040:

I realize this is part of a greater national trend, but I can't help but wonder what the impacts of this will be. What are the causes of this trend? It seems like despite the presence of the U of M, we are unable to retain young adults in the community. Are there too few jobs and too little sunshine? Are there too few affordable housing options?

1 comment:

  1. "Retaining young adults" is kind of a dumb policy objective because it is normal and generally good for young adults to move around a lot, and I don't think Ann Arbor's doing worse than any other community in the state at attracting under 40 in-migration -- Michigan in general is greying.

    The greying of Ann Arbor is more a consequence of how expensive housing is here. If you have kids, you pretty much have to move to Dexter or Canton or Livingston County unless you want to cram everybody into a 2-bedroom apartment. (There's Ypsi too, if you don't have kids or don't mind shelling out for private school.)