One Side of a Great Divide: Austin’s Economy Draws Strength from its Families
The Great Migration
A great divide is developing in the U.S. due to a migration of families from large, expensive metropolitan areas to smaller, suburban regions. The divide is illustrated in a recent Forbes report that lists out the U.S. cities that are experiencing the highest growth-rate of families. According to the report, Austin has had the second-highest increase in families since 2000. There were 86,200 more children in 2013 than in 2000, which reflects a growth rate of an astounding 49.3%. That’s roughly 100 times the national growth rate of 0.5% for the demographic.
To develop the list, Forbes consulted demographer Wendell Cox, who analyzed the changes in the number of 5- to 14-year-olds since 2000 in the nation’s 52 largest metropolitan statistical areas. It was first assumed that areas that achieved the greatest economic recovery since the Great Recession would have seen the highest increase in families. Surprisingly though, even those metro areas that have been recovering well have seen a drop in the 5- to 14-year-old population. Evidence suggests that families are abandoning major city centers in favor of smaller suburbs. The unexpected outcome indicates that economic performance isn’t all that factors into the exodus of the American family from large urban centers.
Family Culture in Austin Real Estate
Although the availability of employment and the affordability of housing is a common thread among the metro areas with the strongest increase in numbers of families, what clearly set the forerunners apart from the pack were city offerings that catered to families. Smaller cities and suburbs are more likely to have things like playgrounds, access to affordable, quality education and more space to allow for families. Large, urban metros appear to focus on adult cultural amenities - such as nightlife and sophisticated restaurants - and dense land-use policies that restrict access to affordable housing.
While smaller metro areas are experiencing this boost to their economies now, the increasing child population will undoubtedly supply a future workforce and growing consumer population. Children will grow up and need jobs and goods from the local market. Their consumerism will provide continued economic fuel to their local economies, which will in turn continue to sustain the growth the areas have seen thus far. Maintaining an environment that attracts young families will be crucial to the future economic development of all metro areas, especially as the large Millennial population enters the ideal age range for raising children.
To best sum it up, Joel Kotkin - the author of the report on the statistics in Forbes - wrote that “Even most hipsters eventually grow up, start a family, seek to buy a house and aspire to a middle-class life. Places that can attract young families will have several things going for them compared to their increasingly child-free rivals: a growing adult labor force, an expanding consumer market and a spur to the local construction industry.”
While Austin boasts a substantial Millennial population due in large part to the accessibility to prestigious universities in the area, the city remains a family-centric metro area with cultural and leisure activities geared toward children and their families. From child-focused theater, museums and even dance venues that welcome little rug-cutters, Austin real estate is a safe investment for families looking for an environment that encourages families to not only live together, but also to learn and play together. As the statistics and projections from the recent report indicate, being family-oriented is not just good for the family. It’s good for the city’s current and future economy.