This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Young and Restless

The New York Times and other media outlets were all over a nice demographic story that sort of erupted this week. The theme of the young and restless refers specifically to people aged 25-34 who are college graduates. They are potentially important to any city as sources of economic growth--well-educated young people working and spending their income locally, especially, as it turns out, in the older central cities (well, except Detroit). The analysis uses data from the 2000 census and from the 2012 American Community Survey and the report was put together by Joe Cortright, who just last week launched a new website called City Observatory, which is funded by the Knight Foundation.

I recommend reading the report in its original (downloadable from the City Observatory website), to avoid the huge question marks that kept going through my head as I read summaries in yesterday's NYTimes and a follow-up up in today's NYTimes. The problem is that the analysis is based on the percentage of a population that is both 25-34 and is a college graduate. The news reports focused on the percentage changes in those numbers, which are a little deceiving since they are dependent upon the size of the base--an increase from 10 to 15 is a 50 percent increase, whereas an increase from 100 to 105 (the same absolute increase) is only a 5 percent increase. The report goes through those complications pretty well, but it is not easy to boil down into a short news article.

What really struck me, though, was that everywhere in the country there has been an increase in the percentage of 25-34 year-olds who have a college degree, and this is driven especially by the increase in the number of women who are graduating from college. They are young, but also "restless" because the higher level of education encourages them to delay marriage and explore options in life. That is not only good economically, I have to think that it is good socially and culturally, as well.

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