The young and restless — 25 to 34-year-olds with a bachelor's degree or higher of education, are increasingly moving to the close-in neighborhoods of the nation's large metropolitan areas. This migration is fueling economic growth and urban revitalization.... Businesses are increasingly locating in or near urban centers to better tap into the growing pool of well-educated workers and because these center city locations enable firms to better compete for talent locally and recruit talent from elsewhere.
The top gainers of this coveted demographic from 2000 to 2012 are what you would expect: Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Boston, Silicon Valley, New York, the Research Triangle and Seattle.
But some among the leaders are cities against which Phoenix should benchmark itself and ought to be able to compete with: Denver, Austin, the Twin Cities and Columbus.
Instead, by a critical metric metropolitan Phoenix comes in 45th. Behind Orlando, Birmingham, Rochester and Indianapolis, hardly cities one would associate with urban cool.
By some measures, Phoenix seemed to perform well, adding 34.4 percent over 12 years. The total number was nearly 43,300. That compares with 45,676 in Seattle and only 36,838 in Boston.
Things look differently when the "young and restless and educated" are compared against the overall 25-34 age group. They comprised around 39 percent in both Denver and Seattle (smaller cities and metros than Phoenix). Yet in Phoenix, the educated young people made up only 27.7 percent of their demographic.
Here's the larger picture from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. In 2012, the total number of adults with at least a bachelor's degree was 37 percent in metro Phoenix. Compare that against competing cities: Seattle (52 percent), Denver (52 percent), Portland (44.4 percent), the Twin Cities (54.4 percent), and San Diego (44.3 percent), much less San Francisco at 61 percent.
The killer piece from the City Observatory report was where the young and educated were choosing to live. In Phoenix, only 2,784 were in close-in urban neighborhoods in 2012, an increase of 554 from 2000.
Sorry for giving you so many numbers to digest, but the previous paragraph is most revealing.
While the highest-quality and most competitive metros are drawing young talent with the "back to the city" movement, Phoenix isn't.
One reason is that central Phoenix has been denuded of employers, especially large headquarters that attract and employ talented, educated workers. Also, all the empty lots locked by land bankers are not being turned into housing. The neighborhoods that remain tend to be pricey historic districts north of downtown.
Metro Phoenix lacks many employers that would attract young, educated talent. According to FiveThirtyEight, the jobs Phoenix is most known for involve real estate. No surprise.
But a more sobering conclusion is that the "Big Sort" is at work. While Phoenix has drawn some educated young people, they share the same suburban — and likely political — affinities as their older neighbors out on the fringes.
Sorry to sun on the parade, but this is a challenge the city of Phoenix must overcome if it is to avoid being the hole in the donut — and that the metro area must overcome or be left behind as a tourism-and-call-center backwater best known for its crazy politics.