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Old 03-31-2016, 02:49 PM   #1
Arlington
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Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

Check out the blog post that's full of demographic charts on who is "urbanizing":
Urban Revival? Not For Most Americans

Kolko argues it is basically limited to:
  • 20 to 30 year olds
  • who have graduated from college
  • without school-age children (childless or toddler)
  • earning in the top 40%
  • are white

I was "that guy", just 20 years and several kids ago.

So we see an overlap between Kolko's identified demographics, "our neighbors", board participants, and this board's skew toward Bernie Sanders,

My take:

For Urbanists, there's a lot to worry that our urban revival won't last:
- Falling gas prices make driving, car buying, & suburbs & more attractive.
- Once the kids hit school (& ballet/little league) the 'burbs offer a way better package (price, quality, variety, convenience)
- For every Boston (powered by tech/money) there are 2 to 3 Worcester/Springfields that don't have money pouring in "from the top"
- A lot of the success of cities may just be a mix of postponed family formation (putting off marriage & children during recession) and its having overlapped with high fuel prices (since collapsed)

Once they've acquired kids and cars, how many will move out and not be replaced for a generation? On the bright side, how many will take their urban preferences with them to the 'burbs?

About me: I'm just past 50, have kids in elementary, middle, and high school, and happen to like biking to work and riding transit. We live "in close" because of the arts/science/ed richness of Boston's core, but have an older, smaller house as a tradeoff. In the grand scheme of things, I'm a crazy outlier, but for this, West Medford is "safe" (I'm not that unusual and know a surprising number of families in Arlington where "the dad" uses bike for some component of commute, for example). Expect that I'll sometimes agree (I fully intended to vote Sanders until 5 days before the election) and sometimes disagree (deciding that I could vote Kasich, and should vote against Trump) Part of this is a demography is destiny / life stage kinda thing.
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Old 03-31-2016, 02:57 PM   #2
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

Gas prices have jumped back up almost 50% to just above $2 in my area I don't know about elsewhere but if prices head back toward $2 or $3 even that will put some pressure on people to drive less.

One question I have is does his data account for the fact that a greater percentage of blacks already live in urban areas so less are likely to be moving to and living in a city for the first time than whites? Also younger millennials not living in urban areas is largely a factor of most people that age are going to college or some other type of job training and many still live at home at least some of the time so the factors on what decides where they live are very different. The other question this raises is would more people live in urban areas if they could afford it because some of the data could mean that low income people are simply being pushed out to less desirable suburban areas?
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Old 03-31-2016, 03:08 PM   #3
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

Quote:
Originally Posted by citylover94 View Post
Also younger millennials not living in urban areas is largely a factor of most people that age are going to college or some other type of job training and many still live at home at least some of the time so the factors on what decides where they live are very different?
A big chunk of kids in college (those who end up closer to the median income after graduating) are actually going to commuter schools burb-to-burb (e.g Middlesex Community College, Bedford). Even many residential college campuses are mostly a little urban setting in an exurban place (Boston is a crazy outlier). In "normal" (rest of USA) college life, you have a car and moving back with the parents = suburban home.
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Old 03-31-2016, 03:28 PM   #4
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

I am fully aware of that as someone who is currently a commuter student living in Vermont and who is forced to drive for the majority of the trips I make. But that is exactly the point I was making is that saying most people from the age of 18-24 are in school or living at home then they might not be moving to urban areas. So in that context it is not surprising that 18-24 year olds aren't living in urban areas at increasing rates or indicative of where they may live in the future.
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Old 03-31-2016, 03:56 PM   #5
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

I'm sure cities are more than happy to have this demographic pouring in. Same with empty nester baby boomers. The last thing cities want to deal with is services and schools (i.e. teachers) for children. It's a shame but I really don't see any big city trying to attract families (at least middle class families).

The big question is what happens when these people start having kids? I just moved to a section a Brooklyn which is heavy with new, young couples and while the area is actually great for kids (and there are a lot of them here) I don't see any new housing being built to support the couples if they want to expand (also, LOL@housing costs).

My honest opinion is that I think a lot of these couples might decamp for small towns and cities upstate (or in the case of Boston, places like Lowell). Bring gentrification to places that need it (I'm sure that statement will cause some shit). But think about how many small, post industrial cities in the northeast would benefit from these types of urban families?
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Old 03-31-2016, 06:51 PM   #6
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

"Not peak Millennial: The coming Millennial wave"

http://cityobservatory.org/not-peak-...llennial-wave/

Some numbers of interest.
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Old 04-01-2016, 12:06 AM   #7
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew View Post
"Not peak Millennial: The coming Millennial wave"

http://cityobservatory.org/not-peak-...llennial-wave/

Some numbers of interest.
Its a great article, but it kind of loses the "city-loving" point and just digs in on 1 dimension of demographics (age) and then, at best, shows Millenials hit a plateau in numbers in 2020.

Assuming there'll always be a top 40% income and educational attainment, the age-only view of why 25 to 34 year olds will or won't stay and change their cities misses 2 other things:

1) Are 25 to 34 year olds getting "less white" and do non-whites actually prefer the burbs (this is a weak point, but it never even gets so much as a hand-wave). Not a big sample size, but, for example, to African American Millennials {may} prefer the 'burbs (as they may in DC's traditionally-black-and-prosperous Prince George's County suburbs)

2) When do "the offspring" start arriving and then (6 years later) start going to school? I think a big blind spot in the article above is not asking when Millennials will get to the point in household formation that they (a) have children and (b) 6 years later, those children enter school. If urban schools are still a disaster when "the offspring" reach 6, I think they'll move out to the burbs no matter how much their parents love(d) the city.

2a) I'm not saying they'll definitely move out, but it'd be sure good to know whether Millennial parents will accept (or force changes to) urban schools. I've got 30something friends in DC (white, college grad, higher income and kids are either in or on the threshold of school), and they look at their neighborhood elementary schools where the 5th grade is 90% African American and the Kindergarten is 90% White (and in between each grade gets whiter as you count backwards: 4th is 25% white, 3rd grade is 40% white, 2nd is 60% white and first is 75%. ANd here, "white" is actually a proxy for "highly educated parents who care about schools" because it is not about age but about those other factors: College & income

DC's Millennials, anyway, are likely to stay, but DC (like Boston but unlike, say, Philly or Baltimore) has particularly rich and well-educated. They are completely content to buy a TINY rowhouse in DC's H-Street corridor (where there were riots after MLK's death) and put their kid in kindergarten knowing that by the time the kid graduates, the school with be 90% "Urbanite"

But Boston and DC and Brooklyn are very much in the protected bubble, but elsewhere, I have my doubts that "the bubble" in other cities (picture St Louis, Cincinnati, Columbus) will be rich, large, and durable enough to change a city's schools rather than just move out to the old fashioned burbs.

I see a little of this in Arlington and Medford. In Arlington, starving post-docs with kids (already moving out from Cambridge to a slightly less urban setting) propelled the elementary schools to crazy-high attainment, but somewhere around middle school they start wondering if they should move to traditional high-school powerhouse suburbs like Belmont, Lexington, Lincoln-Bedford, or Concord-Carlisle. In Medford the schools are a little less awesome and the parents start worrying about moving or private schools for 6th grade
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Old 04-01-2016, 05:29 AM   #8
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

I didn't put too much more because the truth is, I don't know what the real answer is. Kolko doesn't either, nobody does.

The thing that disappoints me about Kolko's article is that he doesn't really offer any explanation for why home prices are so high in cities like Boston. If it wasn't popular, wouldn't those prices be much lower?

The whole "urban schools are bad" line is a product of the 20th century and its legacy of racism. It's self-fulfilling. Some parents pull their kids out of public school / move out of the city because they're outright racist (e.g. "Common Ground" era). Other parents pull their kids out of public school / move out of the city because they see other people doing it. Eventually a narrative develops that city public schools aren't suitable for anyone with means. And since good schools do take parental involvement, that means that everyone with motivation and/or time to be involved has moved elsewhere.

It's total nonsense, though. There's nothing innately "bad" about urban public school systems like BPS. My parent's generation grew up being told that the only way they could possibly be educating their children responsibly was to move to a suburban school system. But the reason they were told that is because their parents' generation was afraid of racial mixing.

I'm not going to claim that people these days are saints. They're not. But many, many more younger people today have grown up in mixed-race settings and don't buy into that fear their grandparents had. It's not an automatic assumption anymore. So I don't believe that you'll see some kind of mass exodus of school-age families. More likely the higher prices of housing will be the problem (also due in part to the legacy of racism in the form of exclusionary zoning codes).

In terms of built environment, I think it's a bit oversimplified to talk about "the city" vs "the suburbs". Honestly, does Brighton really feel that different from West Medford? I don't think so. And most American city neighborhoods look more like Brighton than Back Bay. Late 19th century streetcar suburbs, it's a common theme. Smaller American cities like Pittsburgh are often almost entirely composed of such neighborhoods, for better or for worse (I would prefer smaller streets, personally).

In case you're curious to know, Cambridge [UK] is stuffed to the brim with school-age families, even despite the prices and the university students running around. But perhaps that's to be expected.
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Old 04-01-2016, 08:09 AM   #9
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

I agree that some of urban schools bad rap was racist, but part of what makes DC parents comfortable is an administration that has shown it can rapidly remake schools from catering to no-college and single parent families to the expectations of two highly-degreed parents. For that, you need a teachers union that is with the program.

What I have read of Chicago's schools is that there the teachers see such programs as a threat to their tenure (and unwilling /unable to change their game). 'Round here, Arlington totally gets advanced degree parents but Medford still seems most comfortable with setting trade school and Community college (get a degree from Salem State and come back to be a teacher kinda thing) as what they consider the ultimate goal (not that this isn't ideal, just that it clashes with the desires of parents who want a system that confirms their bias in favor of higher-and-higher Ed).

The "tells" in this game are as telling as that at Medford High, the honors freshmen English class reads "the Hobbit" which, in nerd/geek households, has been fully gone-over by about 6th grade, complete with rune letters and Baranduin/Brandywine etymology. It also manifests in the number and quality of AP classes, and whether having too few is a problem (for Urbanites) or a non-issue (for parents who actually waited till college to study these things, if ever they did).
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Old 04-01-2016, 10:30 AM   #10
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arlington View Post
Kolko argues it is basically limited to:
  • 20 to 30 year olds
  • who have graduated from college
  • without school-age children (childless or toddler)
  • earning in the top 40%
  • are white
Really, what I think Kolko shows is that urban areas are becoming increasingly wealthy.

All of those items you listed except 20-30 year olds are related to wealth. And he doesn't show 20-30 year olds are increasingly urban. In fact, his data shows 20-24 year olds are less urban. And the largest increase is in 35-39 year olds.

What does a wealthy person look like? Generally, white, college educated, high income, and it helps if they don't have to pay for a kid. Rents have gone up in the city.
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Old 04-01-2016, 02:16 PM   #11
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

Yeah I had shitty tenured teachers when I was a kid too. I don't understand why non-research personnel have a tenure system. But anyway...

Personally, I don't believe that schools are going to make-or-break your chances in life. I really dislike the approach that some parents take of forcing their kids through dozens of hours of homework every week, stressing over straight As, and the like. It's really not healthy, nor is it appropriate. You just end up with students who are either burned out, or are really good at gaming the system. They probably go on to have problems in college and beyond. The point of school before 18 is to learn how to be an adult socially and independently, which is a lot more than so-called 'book-learnin', but often lost in all the hub-bub and the exam-stress. It can be nice to offer the advanced courses to the students who are ready for it, but they have to find it on their own, not be forced into it. I feel that for most people, a lot of the university-level stuff doesn't even really sink into your head until you're a bit older than the typical undergraduate.

I did AP Physics (C), AP Calculus (BC), and AP Comp Sci (AB). But all of it was stuff I had found on my own (or my parents had left books around for me to find). I took some of the classes (not AP Comp Sci -- what a joke that was!), but I already knew the material by the time I got to them. This is not something the school was gonna make a difference with. And I now have a PhD in Computer Science, but honestly I all-but-failed my way through the underlying material in my undergraduate years. It wasn't until a few years later that I suddenly began to do well. If grades were the only criteria then I would never have made it this far. But they're not: a good lesson for life. Instead, I got to meet the right people and networked. Not intentionally -- I stumbled into it, luckily.

People skills are much more important than memorizing some differential equations. Also a lot better for being a researcher. Or anything in life, really.

At the risk of derailing this topic -- in graduate school there's a common story that they like to tell: consider two different students. One student is a perfectionist who gets straight-As all throughout school at every level. He or she spends night and day studying, studying, studying -- and arguing every point of every mark on every graded work. A second student is less picky, sometimes lets work slip, daydreams, does his or her own thing, and works on projects outside of school. Which one is the better candidate for a PhD program? The perfectionist or the daydreamer?

The perfectionist is obviously ideal if you have a set course of work to be completed. But if it was already known what had to be done, then you wouldn't earn a PhD for the work. And it's not clear that the perfectionist can translate grade-seeking skills into real-world or research skills. Whereas the daydreamer is someone who has shown that they can work on their own initiative, and possibly dream up something truly new and innovative. That's a much more useful skill in academia. I would argue that it is also useful in many non-academic areas as well, particularly ones requiring creativity.
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Old 04-01-2016, 05:41 PM   #12
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

I'd love to start a thread on education reform, in which I'd mostly agree.

As far as "family" decisionmaking on where to live and school, only Cambridge MA really has enough PhDs to actually expect any kind of flex/non-conformity in schooling.

Most of the top 40%ile were straight-A conformist types or wannabes (they did a BS/BA as perfectionists, or got a still-no-original-thought JD or MBA). They want neighborhoods and schools like they see in the magazines and/or their peers have.

The "its for the children" (that Howie Carr loves to mock) is funny and tragic because it is SO TRUE. If the urban cores don't crack the school puzzle, I don't see how parents will ever be calm or self-assured enough to stay put.
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Old 04-02-2016, 09:40 AM   #13
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

The number one thing all these articles miss is how current trends fit into the larger arc of history. Urbanization has been the trend since the dawn of civilization. The only blip was ~1945-1995 when cheap land, cheap gas, and cheap money made suburbanization possible. Now the land isn't cheap, the gas isn't cheap (outside of our current even smaller blip), and money (not all money, but insert Student Loans here) isn't cheap. Current urbanization isn't a trend, it's a correction and a return to the norm. The only people moving back into the city are middle to upper class white people? Well guess who left during the suburbanization blip. Again, it's not a trend, it's a return to the norm.
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Old 04-05-2016, 08:34 AM   #14
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Re: Kolko: Urbanites = top 40%, <30, College, no kids, white

More writings on the discussion:

Why Do We Care if Millennials Move to the Suburbs?

http://www.frontiergroup.org/blogs/b...s-move-suburbs
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