Is the creative class returning to the nest? 

Will ‘boomerangs” redistribute the young-well educated workforce needed to propel geographic specific job growth?

Pew Research Center’s analysis of U.S. Census data indicates that of the 49 million Americans now living in a multi-generational family household, 47% live in a household made up of two adult generations of the same family – that’s 23 million “boomerangs”.   

   (click for full report    PEW-multi-generational-families)

Today 1 in 5 adults aged 25 to 34 now live in a multi-generational household according to the Pew research. That’s a 2.6 million increase from 2007 to 2008 being an increase to 20% from only 11% in 1980.

Times are changing according to the Pew research.  Today there “are more unmarried 20-somethings in the population, many of whom consider their childhood home to be an attractive living situation, especially when a bad economy makes it difficult for them to find jobs or launch careers”

The economy plays a big factor in this change.

According to Pew analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, as of 2009 some 37% of 22- to-29-year-olds were either unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in nearly four decades. In addition, a 2009 Pew survey found that among 22- to 29-years-olds, one-in eight say that, because of the recession, they have boomeranged back to live with their parents after living on their own.

So what does this mean to the community planner and economic developer?

Ten thoughts on the post recession propensity to migrate for job opportunities or a “fun place to live”:

1.        Unemployment and lack of locally available jobs will place greater emphasis on the choice of the location to reside by the young-well educated creative class.

 2.         Implementation of economic development strategies to gather employment “skill-sets” of the young-well educated and mobile population will be more difficult.

 3.         Communities who have focused there future growth strategy on in-migration of the young-well educated creative class, will need to rethink the effectiveness of this strategy, at least in the short term.

 4.         When population migration patterns of the past economic “good times” return offering job opportunities to the young-well educated creative class, the memory of unemployment and difficulty in securing employment will linger; resulting in hesitancy before making a decision to relocate in pursuit of job opportunities.

 5.         A single source need (one employer) for certain ‘skill sets” within a community will be less desirable to the young-well educated creative class compared to communities having “crosswalking” opportunities; being the ability to transfer individual “skill sets” among several employers.

 6.         Community population growth will, in part, be driven by “crosswalking” opportunities – a large number of local employers seeking my “skill set” will be seen as a better place to reside, by the young-well educated creative class.

 7.         “Skill-set” attraction strategies will enter into the daily lexicon of economic development attraction strategies sponsored by local communities, to expand existing business employment but also to attract complementary “cluster” related businesses.

 8.         “Quality of Life & Placed-Based” population recruitment will take a “back seat” for a while to job offerings and long-term locally-based career opportunities, as attractors to the young-well educated creative class.

 9.         Communities demonstrating entrepreneurialism, the formation of small young businesses, will have a greater appeal to attract the young well-educated creative class, since it evidences a young prosperous community. 

 10.       The role of educational institutions in the community, including academic pursuits, fostering community leadership, formation of community social capital and sponsorship of social and cultural pursuits, will differentiate comparative community prosperity.

For community planners and economic developers there is one certainty.  The economic recession is changing the way people view migration for employment and changing household living patterns.

What happens in the future undoubtedly will be different from what we have experienced in the past. 

These ten thoughts will stimulate discussion and rethinking of community based economic development strategy.

Author note:  This was prepared by Charles Eckenstahler for presentation at the Purdue North Central “Topics in Regional Economic Development”   classs, Spring 2010. 


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Eric Larcinese Says:

    Great article Chuck! Do you think the opposite end of the age spectrum to be moving in with their grown kids due to investment failures and stress on the pensions?

    • chuckeckenstahler Says:

      Yes – definately. Yhis will be a demographic change that will impact houseshold size for a considerable time period; untill jobs become more plentiful and svaings/disposable income recovers to level removing fear of spending. I’m quessing this may take 10-years, or more, and maybe never regain the “babyboomers” confidence.

  2. John Czarnecki Says:

    Finally someone has woken up to the realities facing this country. Jobs will be the driving factor. The young will go to where the job is and not to a place because they want to live there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: