Young adults in the Buffalo Niagara region are better educated and more likely to reside in city neighborhoods than they were in 2000.
And these trends are helping fuel economic growth and drive urban revitalization in Buffalo – and in other cities across the country – a new study by a national think tank has found.
The number of 25- to 34-year-olds with bachelor’s degrees in the Buffalo Niagara region grew by a third between 2000 and 2012, even as overall population shrank.
This group now comprises more than 5 percent of the entire population of the metropolitan area – putting Buffalo Niagara among the top 25 metropolitan regions in the country for highest percentages of overall population consisting of well-educated young adults. The data come from “The Young and Restless and the Nation’s Cities,” a new report by City Observatory.
What difference does it make?
The report cites previous economic studies showing that cities with higher levels of educational attainment have higher productivity, higher incomes and less unemployment.
“In the past two decades, we’ve witnessed an inversion of the classic recipe for economic development. It used to be that people moved to where the businesses were. Now, increasingly, it is businesses that look to expand in locations where there is an abundance of talent, especially young, well-educated workers,” the reports reads. “This process is reshaping the nation’s cities and rekindling the vitality of the urban core.”
City Observatory analyzed 2000 census data and 2012 annual data from the American Community Survey in finding that Buffalo Niagara had 58,915 young adults with bachelor’s degrees in 2012 – up 33 percent from 44,119 in 2000.
The degree-holders comprised 42 percent of the overall population of 25- to 34-year-olds in Buffalo Niagara in 2012, up from 31 percent in 2000.
Average college attainment rates in the nation’s largest 51 metropolitan areas rose to 37 percent from 32 percent during that time.
In 2000, young adults here with bachelor’s degrees were 3.8 percent of the entire population of the region, which was below the national average of 4.2 percent. In 2012, the percentage for the area grew to 5.2 percent, ahead of the national average of 5 percent.
The study also used 2000 and 2010 census data to examine how young adults increasingly are flocking to the city neighborhoods within three miles of the center of the region’s central business district.
Overall, the population in such neighborhoods nationwide was unchanged between 2000 and 2010, the study found. But the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with four-year degrees in those neighborhoods grew by 37 percent across the country.
In Buffalo Niagara, the growth was 38 percent – with 5,752 young adults with degrees residing in the innermost urban areas in 2010, compared with 4,162 in 2000.
Buffalo was among 25 cities that saw such growth, despite overall population decline within its boundaries.
The study concluded that college-educated 25- to 34-year-olds are more than twice as likely as all residents of metropolitan areas to live in “close in” urban areas, and that more than half of young adults living in those neighborhoods have college degrees.
It also found that the availability of talented young workers plays a key role in the formation and growth of new companies.