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Former Austin Mayor Will Wynn, who often speaks on urban growth, suggested that Austin’s attractiveness to retirees and young Americans helps explain demand for downtown housing.
"As our society ages, and as boomers start retiring by the millions, we’re going to see a dramatic increase in the demand for dense urban multifamily housing, with a broad mix of uses nearby," Wynn told the Austin American-Statesman for a March 30, 2014, news story headlined "Austin’s rebuilding boom."
"Couple that with the fact that more 25- to 34-year-olds are moving to Austin than any other city in America," Wynn said, "and you’ve got yourself a hell of a strong demand for urban housing. I tell people that by any way you possibly measure it — quality of life, public safety, environmental sustainability, public health and fitness, economic — mixed-use density is literally the answer."
Density preferences aside, is Wynn right that more young adults are moving to Austin than to any other U.S. city?
Wynn recalls a newspaper story
By phone and email, Wynn said he learned of Austin’s draw from a Statesman news story citing U.S Census Bureau research.
He didn’t have the story handy, but we found a March 30, 2013, Statesman news story stating that analyses of U.S Census Bureau data by William Frey, a senior demographer at the Brookings Institution, found that from 2009 through 2011, the Austin metro area drew more Americans in the cited age span than any other U.S. city--just as the area did the previous three years, the story said.
Frey, the newspaper said, measured rates for annual average net migration (including people who left Austin) of young adults ages 25 to 34 and young adults with college degrees. "Austin hits the trifecta," Frey said then. "It's got jobs, cachet, it's got people who see that it's a pathway to careers, either because they go there to get an education or to use an education."
Frey further said jobs typically are the top reason people move. Twenty-somethings traditionally have the highest rates of mobility, and college graduates typically are more willing to move out of state for jobs because they tend to compete for them in national markets, Frey said then.
Updated analysis places Austin-Round Rock fifth
But there's been a change in the rankings, according to Frey’s Nov. 15, 2013, analysis of more recent census data. The Austin-Round Rock metro area placed fifth among 51 major metro areas as a draw on "millennials," adults in the cited age group, from 2009 through 2012, according to a chart posted online by Brookings.
Over those three years, the Austin-Round Rock area had an average annual gain of 8,061 25- to 34-year-olds, Frey wrote. Washington, D.C., ranked first among major metro areas with an average annual gain of 12,583 people in the age group, he wrote. Also, the Denver, Portland, Ore., and Houston areas netted greater gains than the Austin area, according to Frey’s breakdown.
On the Brookings site, Frey described the D.C. results as a "renewal of young adults in the post-recession period… compared to the loss of young adults during the recession. The existence of both government and non-government employment opportunities in a highly educated ‘millennial friendly’ environment make the nation’s capital an attractive destination until migration flows to a broader group of areas emerge.
"A few other areas, including San Francisco and Minneapolis, have showed a rising post-recession young adult boom as well," Frey wrote. His chart shows the San Francisco area ranked sixth among major metro areas with an average annual gain of 7,688 such young adults in the three years. The Minneapolis area, 11th among major metros, had an average annual gain of 3,708 adults in the age group, according to the chart.
Researcher says No. 5 isn't so bad
To our inquiry, Frey said by email that while Austin’s rank fell between the cited time periods, there is another way to compare--by the rate of change in such adults settling in major metro areas. By that measure, Frey added, the Austin-Round Rock area’s 2.7 net gain per 100 25- to 34-year-olds placed it second among major metros only to the Denver area, which had a 3.0 rate, he said.
Still, Frey said he considers numeric gains to be a more accurate measure of where migrants are going. Numeric gains, he said, are "not affected by the size of the destination population In other words, among all the places in the country, which places are gaining the biggest aggregate numbers of migrants? The rate, is more of an ‘impact’ measure: how are recent migrants affecting the destination population?"
Generally, Frey said, the Austin area "has both educational and employment opportunities relevant to young people who are looking to advance -- especially during a period when many other places have taken sharp employment hits. Even if young people coming to Austin are not getting their dream jobs right away, they will be networking with others who might make that happen. This will not be the case in many other places."
We wondered why Austin’s rank slipped.
Frey said that as the economy "slowly revives elsewhere, there will be competitors, but being number two or number five" isn’t bad, he wrote.
Wynn, apprised of the Austin area’s latest ranking, speculated by email that Austin by itself, rather than the metro area, draws more young adults than any other U.S. city.
Wynn said more 25- to 34-year-olds are moving to Austin than any other city in America.
Wynn did not offer nor did we find data specific to individual cities. But four major metro areas, led by Washington, D.C., netted more new residents in the cited age group in the latest three years checked by Brookings demographer James Frey. The Austin area ranked fifth among the nation’s major metros.
We see no basis for currently declaring Austin No. 1, but Wynn's claim has an element of truth; the Austin area was the biggest draw for young adults in some recent three-year periods. We rate his statement as Mostly False.
MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.
Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Emails (excerpted), Will Wynn, April 8, 11, 2013
News story, "For people on the move, Austin is a place to stop and live," Austin American-Statesman, March 30, 2013
Chart, "Greatest Metropolitan Net Migration Gains, 2009-2012: Seniors and Millennials (among 51 metropolitan areas with populations exceeding one million)," William H. Frey analysis of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 3 Year Data for 2007-9 and 2010-12 (which was released Nov. 14, 2013), the Brookings Institution, Nov. 15, 2013 (downloaded April 9, 2014)
Emails, William H. Frey, demographer and senior fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, The Brookings Institution, April 9, 2014
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