June 13, 2006


Flight of Young Adults Is Causing Alarm Upstate (SAM ROBERTS, 6/13/06, NY Times)

Upstate New York is staggering from an accelerating exodus of young adults, new census results show. The migration is turning many communities grayer, threatening the long-term viability of ailing cities and raising concerns about the state's future tax base.

From 1990 to 2004, the number of 25-to-34-year-old residents in the 52 counties north of Rockland and Putnam declined by more than 25 percent. In 13 counties that include cities like Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton, the population of young adults fell by more than 30 percent. In Tioga County, part of Appalachia in New York's Southern Tier, 42 percent fewer young adults were counted in 2004 than in 1990.

"Make no mistake: this is not business as usual," Robert G. Wilmers, the chairman of M & T Bank in Buffalo, told his shareholders this spring. "The magnitude and duration of population loss among the young is unprecedented in our history. There has never been a previous 10-year period in the history of the upstate region when there has been any decline in this most vital portion of our population."

In New York City and the five suburban counties in New York State, the number of people ages 18 to 44 increased by 1.5 percent in the 1990's. Upstate, it declined by 10 percent.

Over all, the upstate population grew by 1.1 percent in the 1990's — slower than the rate for any state except West Virginia and North Dakota.

Population growth upstate might have lagged even more but for the influx of 21,000 prison inmates, who accounted for 30 percent of new residents. During the first half of the current decade, the pace of depopulation actually increased in many places.

David Shaffer, president of the Public Policy Institute, which is affiliated with the Business Council of New York State, described the hemorrhaging of young adults as "the worst kind of loss."

"You don't just magically make it up with new births," he said. "These are the people who are starting careers, starting families, buying homes."

In almost every place upstate, emigration rates were highest among college graduates, producing a brain drain, according to separate analyses of census results for The New York Times by two demographers, William Frey of the Brookings Institution and Andrew A. Beveridge of Queens College of the City University of New York. Among the nation's large metropolitan areas, Professor Frey said, Buffalo and Rochester had the highest rates of what he called "bright flight."

Irwin L. Davis, president of the Metropolitan Development Association in Syracuse, which promotes economic growth in central New York, said, "We're educating them and they're leaving."

And Gary D. Keith, vice president and regional economist for M & T Bank, said, "Sluggish job growth is the biggest driver of out-migration among young upstate adults."

As young adults flee the dying Blue States for the vital Red it will just continue to shift power to the GOP in the House and make the Electoral College an insurmountable obstacle for Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 13, 2006 7:47 AM

"Population growth upstate might have lagged even more but for the influx of 21,000 prison inmates..."

I'm not laughing at their pain, but that's just funny.

Posted by: Emma at June 13, 2006 9:39 AM

I can tell you from personal experience that much of that "bright flight" is ending up in the very Blue cities of Boston, NYC, and LA.

Posted by: curt at June 13, 2006 9:46 AM

Where are they fleeing to? Is it as Curt suggests, to the Big Cities?

Let's face it, what's the point of living in a rural area of a Left-Liberal state? You pay high taxes for social services and libertine attitudes you don't get to experience personally. You get the worst of both worlds, especially from a young, adventurous adult perspective.

The same goes for Washington and Oregon east of the Cascades, for example. Then again, if they are experiencing a population loss, we aren't hearing about it.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at June 13, 2006 11:37 AM

Some are going to the big Blue Fortress cities, and many of those will eventually find themselves in the suburbs, once they have families. Others are heading directly for Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, where there are jobs and the weather's nice and/or you can ski in nice powder. But OJ is being too sanguine. Unfortunately the influx of blue staters may start to turn red states purple -- in the West it's called Californication, when all the liberals who messed up a state that was gorgeous, well-run and rather Midwestern in attitude outside of Hollywood flood adjacent states to mess them up too.

Posted by: Lisa at June 13, 2006 1:02 PM


FL, TX, NH, etc.

Posted by: oj at June 13, 2006 2:20 PM

I wouldn't worry about it OJ. There will be plenty of Mexicans to fill those spots.

Posted by: NC3 at June 13, 2006 3:48 PM

Which will turn those Blue states Red again. It's quite cunning.

Posted by: oj at June 13, 2006 3:53 PM

Americans, NC3. The Mexicans stayed home.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at June 13, 2006 6:42 PM