Sunday, April 13, 2008

Who's Moving to Pittsburgh? And How Can We Keep More of Them Here?

The latest Census population estimates indicate that the Pittsburgh Region continued to lose population in 2007. Does this mean people are fleeing the region?

Although it’s true that about 6,000 more people move out than move in each year, our rate of net domestic outmigration in 2007 was actually lower than 16 of the top 40 regions, including Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Silicon Valley.

What really hurts us is that we’re the only major region in the country which has more deaths than births. This is a legacy of the much larger outmigration that occurred in the 1980s, when tens of thousands of people, particularly young people, left the region in search of employment. When they left, they took their children and their grandchildren with them.

Underneath the current net migration numbers is a significant amount of inflow and outflow. About 35,000 - 45,000 people move into the Pittsburgh metro area from outside Pennsylvania each year (either from elsewhere in the U.S. or overseas), so in any given year, between 1.5% and 2.0% of our population is new to the region and the state. Although that’s a large number, it’s one of the smallest percentages among the top 40 regions.

Who are these people? The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey tells us a number of interesting things about them. (It should be noted that since these statistics are based on surveys, they are subject to some degree of error.)

First of all, they are predominantly young. Of the 30,000 - 35,000 people who move here each year from another state in the U.S., over half are under 30 years of age. In fact, we rank in the top 5 regions in terms of the percentage of 18-24 year olds among people who move here from another state. That’s a clear indication that our colleges and universities are major magnets for in-migration.

In contrast, our greatest weakness is attracting people 30-40 years old. We rank near the bottom among the top 40 regions in the percentage of U.S. in-migrants who are in that age group.

How about international immigrants? In the past, Pittsburgh ranked dead last in the rate of international immigration, but that may be starting to change. While still very low, in the past few years the rate has increased significantly, and has moved ahead of places like Cincinnati, Cleveland, and St. Louis. We also have one of the highest rates of growth in our foreign-born population among major regions. That’s because we’re starting with such a small base (we have the smallest proportion of foreign-born people among the top 40 regions) that even our low rate of immigration increases our foreign-born population significantly.

The international immigrants we do attract are much better educated than the immigrants to other regions – over 60% of our international immigrants who are age 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the highest percentage among the top 40 regions. Our universities, hospitals, and research centers likely play a major role in this.

Attracting more international immigrants is just one of our diversity challenges. Not only do we have the smallest percentage of foreign-born residents, we are the whitest of the top 40 regions of the country – 89% of the people in the Pittsburgh MSA are white, whereas in most of the major regions, at most 70% are white. While the people moving here are more diverse than our current population – about 20% of the U.S. residents moving to our region from out-of-state are non-white – they are still less diverse than the migrants to other regions (in most regions, 30% or more of the domestic in-migrants are non-white).

Clearly, we need to attract more people to the region if we’re going to reverse our population decline and provide the workforce our employers need. Although our current rate of in-migration is still too low, at least it’s moving us in the right direction – attracting young people, highly educated individuals, and a somewhat more diverse population than we have today. Our challenge is to make them feel welcome, and to provide the job opportunities they need to stay and build roots here. If we succeed in that, it will help to attract even more people in the future.

(A slightly shorter version of the above was also published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on April 13, 2008.)


Blogger Schultz said...

With all due respect, is this news to anyone? We're still studying and reporting the same problems and challenges we have faced for years - it's time to start taking action and coming up with plans to address these challenges.

The dialog needs to address how we will meet these challenges instead of rehashing the same old story about our demographics and lack of diversity and immigration. Don't you agree?

1:04 PM  
Blogger Harold D. Miller said...

Sorry to say that it is news to a lot of people. Plus it's new information, and some aspects of are different in the past.

You're correct that we need to spend more time on how to meet the challenges than on reporting that they exist, but unless there is more widespread awareness that the challenges exist, it's impossible to get enough of the right kind of attention focused on the solutions.

So rather than spending your time criticizing an effort to raise the issues higher on the priority list, you could make some suggestions about what should be done!

1:11 PM  
Blogger Schultz said...

I agree with your point about the need to elevate the issue. After posting my comment (which took a few seconds) I spent some time writing about a few potential solutions. Feel free to critique.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous evergrey said...

It's news to most people. The common perception, which is constantly reinforced in the media, is that Pittsburgh is suffering from a mass exodus... which is not reflective of the reality of Pittsburgh MSA population trends in recent years. In fact, while the "population loss" figure for Metro Pittsburgh may look similar to other Rust Belt losers like Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, Youngstown, etc... Pittsburgh's "components of population change" are quite a different story from these other metros... and reflective of an intense and prolonged economic stress that actually preceded the rest of the Rust Belt (Metro PGH lost 5000 people in the 60s!) and reached a breathtaking nadir in the early/mid 80s. And today, while many positive micro-trends are taking place here, we still suffer from the birth deficit.

Compare us to Metro Philly, which is a slow-growth East Coast metro that never experienced wild economic swings to the degree we have. Metro Philly is about 2.5 times bigger than Metro Pittsburgh... yet we have 1/2 the deaths and 1/3 the births annually. We have a birth total of a smaller region and the death total of a larger region. Perhaps included in your policies, schultz, should be an incentive for childbirth.

Government and media types always whine about how Metro Pittsburgh can "keep people here"... but that's a diagnosis for a problem that doesn't exist. We should be focusing on how to attract people to Pittsburgh. Continuing our positive trajectory in job growth in occupational sectors not dependent on "population growth" (schoolteachers, construction, retail, etc.) will lead us to population growth. (although construction employment actually is booming here over the past year)

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Madame DeFarge said...

I hear a lot of bloviating from businesspeople about the importance of "growing the workforce." However, I don't see a corresponding increase in the number of jobs that are being made available to said workforce. Many of the people who I went to college with (CMU and Pitt) would have liked to stary in this area, but could not find work. (If they had been able to stay, they would now be in your uber-desirable 30-40 demographic.) I also know too many people who are unemployed or underemployed to believe that there is some kind of worker shortage.

Perhaps you should target your efforts towards the business community and try to persuade them not to be so gun-shy about hiring. It would also be great if we could make Pittsburgh a more hospitable place for small businesses and entrepreneurs. CMU and Pitt in particular are driving a lot of the economic energy of this region with their myriad spin-off companies, and more should be done to encourage this kind of activity! Having more opportunities available in Pittsburgh will do much to stem the out-migration and attract new people to this region.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Schultz said...

"Many of the people who I went to college with (CMU and Pitt) would have liked to stary in this area, but could not find work. (If they had been able to stay, they would now be in your uber-desirable 30-40 demographic.) I also know too many people who are unemployed or underemployed to believe that there is some kind of worker shortage."

You make almost the exact arguement I made last year over on Pittsblog. This seems to be an annually debate around here. A finished up at CMU in late 2006. A lot of my classmates wanted to stay (some were happy to get out) but they ended up leaving for places like Minneapolis, Philadelphia, or Charlotte because either the jobs they want are not here (banking, technology co's) or most of the employers in Pittsburgh don't want to compete with the big firms that hire MBAs. In other words, they will hire MBAs from Pitt, from Duquesne U., and others because the salary expectations aren't as high. I landed on my feet but I didn't take the conventional route.

7:05 AM  
Anonymous evergrey said...

About 9% of CMU students come from the Pittsburgh region. About triple that number of CMU grads stay in the region. CMU is a world-renowned elite university that gets students from all over the world. Pitt gets students from all over the world too, but a much higher percentage are locals. While we should always be striving to keep more and more CMU grads (Project Olympus is a noble goal), it's not so shocking that the majority leave considering the vast majority aren't from here, and the elite reputation of the school means companies around the world are scouting for these people. Pittsburgh isn't the only city that hosts an elite university where the majority of grads go elsewhere... but some of us have this myopic "It's only happening in Pittsburgh" viewpoint.

Fact: Pittsburgh is experiencing a "brain gain", meaning there are more educated people here now than ever before... which is distinct from most places in the "Rust Belt".

Fact: The city of Pittsburgh ranks 4th amongst cities over 250,000 for % of 24-35 year olds with postgraduate degrees (behind Boston, DC, SF) and 9th for % with bachelor's degrees (I recognize corporate boundaries do not come close to capturing the reality of the true Pittsburgh, but it's an impressive statistic nonetheless).

I like a lot of your proposals, schultz, and I believe Pittsburgh has a lot of work to do... but there's no sense in having a misguided "sky is falling attitude" about Pittsburgh. It's not 1985 anymore. Whenever somebody moves away from Pittsburgh it's this "big story" that clearly demonstrates this region's inability to hang on to anybody. But the numbers show that Metro Pittsburgh has one of the lowest rates of out-migration amongst major metros. Unfortunately, it has an even LOWER rate of in-migration... couple this with our birth deficit (legacy of 60s-80s) and our inability to attract large numbers of international migrants... and voila... population decline.

Unlike the ubiquitous headlines... Pittsburgh should not worry about people leaving... it should be worried about people coming. The birth deficit will continue to be a drag until age demographics and improved in-migration can work that out.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Schultz said...

"but there's no sense in having a misguided "sky is falling attitude" about Pittsburgh."

Where is my "misguided" sky is falling attitude again? I never said the sky is falling, I was pointing out the similarities to the previous comments and a debate we had on Pittsblog last year.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

um. a general comment, how about people lobbying their local, city and state reps to lower business and personal income taxes along with more responsible fiscal behavior?

6:48 PM  
Blogger Schultz said...

Ironically, I posted about reducing the size of our state legislature just last Tuesday.

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Dave Patternson said...

There are people now moving to pittsburgh or moving back to pittsburgh which hasnt really happened in the last 30 years. There is a website called that has a ton of stories from people who are leaving, have left, or are returning to pittsburgh and their reasoning. It's a good read guys.

1:19 PM  

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