Census: D.C. Area Draws Young Adults

Census figures show DC region has gained thousands of people ages 25-34 in last 3 years.

According to U.S. Census Bureau, the Washington metropolitan area gained roughly 7,000 people between the ages of 25 and 34 in the past three years, according to The Washington Post. The rate, which factors in D.C.‘s suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, was the sixth-highest in the nation , just behind Austin and ahead of Portland, Or.

The recession has turned the Washington region into a magnet for young adults embarking on careers and families, putting it in the company of capitals of cool such as Seattle and Denver.

It’s a marked change from pre-recession stats, which had the region losing 8,000 young adults a year to metropolitan areas with lower living costs and more sunshine. The change is due in part to the availability of jobs in a city that has fared better economically than most others in recent years. It ranked 44th in the nation and was about on par with San Francisco and Boston.

The new order reflects the Washington region’s relatively resilient economy as other parts of the country floundered, racking up job losses and foreclosures after the recession began in late 2007. But some demographers also cited Washington‘s emerging reputation as a cool place for young adults to live.

“It’s the economy and hipness,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, who analyzed the census data comparing the 2005 to 2007 period with 2008 to 2010. “Young people are going to places that have a certain vibe. If there’s a recession, they want to ride it out in a place like that. And Washington has the extra advantage of being a government town that’s not as hard-hit by recessions as others.”

People 25 to 34 typically are starting careers, getting married and having children. In the middle part of the decade, Frey said of the census data, D.C. was a stepping stone where young people got their first experience before getting jobs in regions with more affordable housing, such as Atlanta, Phoenix, Charlotte and Riverside, Ca.

But when the housing bubble popped and jobs evaporated, those regions became less attractive even as Washington retained its chief allure: jobs.

“We were doing far better than anyone else,” said John McClair, deputy director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University.
During the height of the recession, interest in the university’s public policy programs doubled and tripled from people seeking to burnish their credentials and job skills, he said.

Bert Sterling, who scours census statistics to compile lists of the best places to live — and who lives in Portland — said he expects the Washington area eventually will revert to a more traditional role, as a place to establish a career and eventually move on.
Washington is known as a center for power and, during the recession, has taken on the image of a place where the jobs are,” he said. “I haven’t heard anyone say Washington is hip and cool. But I don’t know if you want your seat of government to be too cool and quirky.”

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