In the wake of the Great Recession, young professionals migrated to Washington, DC and its surrounding suburbs in large numbers, attracted by a growing tech scene and the relative stability of a local economy anchored by the federal government. But now that job growth has picked up again in the rest of the country, many of the millennials who led DC’s transformation over the past decade are moving away, eschewing the capital’s high living costs for opportunities in more affordable cities, Aaron Gregg reported at the Washington Post on Saturday:
A new analysis by George Mason University researchers finds that, among those already in the United States, more people are leaving the region than arriving for the first time since the Great Recession. Millennial deserters — ages 20 to 29 — are one factor. But another big one is baby boomers leaving to begin retirement life elsewhere. Families and the unemployed are also going. …
The current exodus could complicate efforts to diversify the region’s mix of business and wean it off its dependence on the federal government. In recent years, Washington has persuaded large corporations like Nestle and Yelp to set up offices here, and local leaders are now mobilizing to lure Amazon.com’s second headquarters here.
Cities across the nation have wooed millennials ever since they became the largest demographic in the labor force. Local leaders have touted the city as attractive to millennials — and promoted its well-educated millennials as attractive to companies. And the latest data suggest the D.C. area is losing out as rising rents outpace growth in paychecks.
DC, in other words, is going through a similar phenomenon to what has been happening in recent years in the San Francisco Bay Area, where tech professionals have been looking to leave the high-rent cities of Silicon Valley and move to less expensive parts of the country. This trend has even been identified as a significant factor in the tech sector’s talent shortage. Los Angeles is also finding that high housing costs are a barrier to attracting talent.
In the case of Washington, DC, the height restrictions that limit high-rise construction within its city limits have helped prevent the capital from getting rents under control by increasing the housing supply—much like San Francisco’s resistance to high-density development. This trend of millennials looking for cheaper places to live is affecting employers in pricey urban centers throughout the country, however, particularly as millennials reach the age at which people commonly look to settle down and start families. This is why some tech companies and banks have begun moving jobs out of the New York and San Francisco areas to locations with lower costs of living, such as Salt Lake City and Dallas.