February 24, 2016

Item from Ian: Why the Return

Ian Item
From CityLab:
From 2000 to 2010, more college-educated professionals aged 25 to 34 moved downtown than to the suburbs in 39 of the 50 largest U.S. metros. For 35-to-44-year-olds, the same held true in 28 of the 50 largest metros. This revival was true in the places you might expect, like New York City or San Francisco, and in places you might not, like Cleveland.
Couture and Jessie Handbury of the University of Pennsylvania think they’ve settled on an explanation in a new working paper that tracks America’s urban revival as meticulously as any analysis to date. And it’s not one of the usual suspects.
... service amenities seemed to play the key role in explaining urban revival … Over time, young professionals chose to live in areas where there had been higher densities of amenities in 2000, as well as in places that experienced growth in such amenities during the next decade.
Furthermore, the researchers believe that first trend—the initial density of amenities—was the bigger instrument of revival. If young people merely flocked to places adding amenities from 2000 to 2010, they would have gone to the suburbs in greater numbers, since the suburbs actually experienced more amenity growth than downtowns did at that time. The fact that they went downtown, which had greater initial amenity densities in 2000, suggests to Couture that they’d developed a new preference for living near bars, restaurants, theaters, and the like. …
“So what it seems is it’s not that the environment has changed in a way that favors downtown,” he says. “It’s that the preferences of people have changed in ways that favor the downtown—in particular the preferences for these highly urbanized amenities, like in entertainment services.” …
Couture and Handbury aren’t saying that a new demand for proximity to bars and such was the only factor—just that it offered the best statistical fit with residential patterns during that period. The other explanations they considered, many offered by the popular media or previous research, proved relatively less powerful than the lure of amenities.

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More exploration of alternative reasons here.

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