Report shows Pittsburgh region retains, attracts young people

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A report released Tuesday revealed that the Pittsburgh region is attracting young people in addition to having more success in retaining its own, contradicting the notion that young adults flee the city looking for job opportunities elsewhere.

The report, prepared by local think tank PittsburghTODAY, looked not only at U.S. Bureau of Census statistics about migration to the city, but also at their demographic profile gleaned from telephone interviews of 417 people aged 18 to 34 who were surveyed as part of a broader study. In addition, it looked at their viewpoints on an array of issues -- from education, to the environment, to race relations and public transit.

The release of the report was timed to coincide with One Young World, a leadership summit that begins Thursday and will draw 1,500 delegates -- all under the age of 30 -- to the city from across the globe to attend seminars and discuss a wide range of issues, from global health to education.

Steve Sokol, executive director of the World Affairs Council, said the release of the report helps change the world's impression of the city, just as he hopes the summit will.

"We need to be forward leaning and get the word out that we're doing a lot of interesting things here that can resonate on a global as well as a local level," he said.

The city saw 3,740 more people move into the region than leave it in 2011, and about 70 percent of the region's new arrivals are under 35, according to the report. The region's population of 20- to 34-year-olds grew by 7 percent over the past five years.

Chris Briem of the University of Pittsburgh's University Center for Social & Urban Research said the idea of youngsters evacuating the city is long outdated. Indeed, in 1984, 50,000 people left the region and more than 70 percent of them were under 39, a loss attributed in large part of the mill closures and the bleak job market. But that out-migration slowed considerably within a half-dozen years and for about two decades, young people have been leaving the region at rather average rates.

"There's no fleeing of Pittsburgh," he said.

Quay Morris, a 24-year-old Internet marketing consultant who moved from Orlando, Fla., to Uptown last year, said she found Pittsburgh's job market to be sunnier, even if the weather wasn't. Her boyfriend also lived in Pittsburgh, and when it looked like her employer -- a startup -- was going to fold, she quit and moved to the Steel City.

"The whole climate up here is more positive when it comes to jobs," she said, adding that the presence of Google and the robust tech industry made it easier for her to find clients.

The region's colleges and universities also seem to be retaining some of those they educate, even when they're not from Pittsburgh. The study found that the city has one of the best-educated young work forces in the country, with more than 20 percent of young workers possessing advanced degrees. More than half reported making more than $50,000 a year and a fifth said they made more than $75,000 a year.

What the survey found is that young people hold positive views of the region, with more than half rating its quality of life as excellent or good. They're more culturally engaged, more likely to use public transportation and less likely to vote.

At a panel Tuesday to discuss the report's findings, elected officials emphasized the importance of making the region more attractive to young people, lest they risk losing them. The report, for example, showed young people were more likely to take public transit even though it was also one of their biggest gripes.

region - businessnews

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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