Are People Fleeing the Pittsburgh Region?
Are people fleeing the region? Do we need to do more to attract new residents?
The answers are no, and yes.
Although the data show that the Pittsburgh Region had net domestic outmigration over the past 6 years, we’re not alone. In fact, the majority of the top 40 metro regions in the country had more U.S. citizens move out than move in during that period. Places like Silicon Valley, San Diego, and Boston had higher rates of domestic outmigration than Pittsburgh did (the outmigration rate in Silicon Valley was 6 times as high as in Pittsburgh).
So how did the Pittsburgh Region end up with the second highest population loss? Three reasons: a lower birth rate, a higher death rate, and a lower rate of international immigration than most other regions.
Pittsburgh was the only major region in the country over the past six years where more people died than were born. There’s a simple reason for that – in 2000, we had the second highest proportion of people over 65 and the lowest percentage of people ages 20-34 of any of the top 40 regions. That, in turn, is largely due to the outmigration of young people that occurred 25 years ago. When so many young people left here in the 1980s following the collapse of the steel industry, they took their children with them.
It’s less easy to explain why we rank next-to-last in the rate of international immigration. However, it’s worth noting that the Census didn’t actually measure where international immigrants located between 2000 and 2006, it simply assumed that they located in the same places where new immigrants located between 1995 and 2000. So even if the Pittsburgh Region had become dramatically more attractive for international immigration after 2000, we wouldn’t see it reflected in the population estimates until after the next Census.
Although we’re not experiencing a massive exodus from the region, we don’t have significant in-migration, either. While we lost 2% of our population due to domestic outmigration over the past six years, Charlotte’s population grew by over 10%, Indianapolis grew by 2.9%, and Portland (Oregon) grew by 3.4% due to domestic migration alone. If the Pittsburgh Region had merely matched the domestic migration rate in Indianapolis or Portland, our total population would have grown, rather than declined.
The Pittsburgh Region has a wealth of assets to attract new residents –affordable housing, tremendous cultural and sports attractions, and great outdoor recreation.
What we don’t have is job growth.
Over the past three years, our region ranked 37th out of the top 40 regions in net job creation, behind only New Orleans, Cleveland, and Detroit. We have fewer jobs today than we did six years ago.
The slow job growth is partly due to slow population growth, since some of the largest sectors of any economy are retail and personal services. But regardless, 3,400 net new jobs in three years is not something that will easily attract job seekers to our region. It’s no wonder that our region ranked 57th out of 66 markets in Bizjournals’ recent list of hot metros for young adult jobseekers.
What can we do to accelerate job growth?
·Improve the state’s business climate. It’s hard to attract and retain businesses when you have the worst corporate net income tax in the country.
·Invest in entrepreneurs. Startup businesses can play a critical role in attracting and retaining young talent in the region.