Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Demography in Atlanta

by Edward Hugh

I found this article in this morning's FT about Atlanta's plans to respond to the coming retirement of the baby-boomers interesting. Demographic issues in the United States have a much milder edge to those which are in evidence in many other parts of the globe, so it is revealing of something to see just how aware they are about the existence of the problem:

Atlanta leads fight to lure young and restless

A study published on Monday by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce showed that the city increased its share of the group – defined as university graduates aged 25-34 – faster than any other of the 50 largest metropolitan areas during the 1990s.

The study, conducted by a demographic research firm, was commissioned as part of efforts by Atlanta’s business community and civic leadership to develop a strategy for attracting young talent.

Sam Williams, president of the chamber, launched the initiative after noticing how availability of educated labour was becoming a bigger concern for businesses.

He recalls one company that was considering an investment in Atlanta asking: “We need 300 people with master’s degrees within three months. Are they there?”

Competition for talent is becoming increasingly fierce throughout the developed world as “baby-boomers” retire and birth rates decline. For decades, growth in higher education and increased labour participation by women provided rich seams of fresh talent. But those trends are starting to slow.

As supplies of the “young and restless” tighten, Atlanta’s study exposes disparities between cities that are successfully meeting the demographic challenge and others that are losing out.

Between 1990 and 2000, the period covered by the research, Atlanta increased its number of university-educated 25 to 34 year olds by 46 per cent, while its share of the nationwide group rose faster than any other city’s.

San Francisco and Denver registered the next biggest share gains, while Los Angeles and New York, which have the largest numbers of “young and restless”, suffered the biggest drops.

The Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina had the highest percentage of the group among its population, reflecting the strength of its universities, followed by the cities of Boston and San Francisco.

In absolute terms, the “young and restless” followed broader shifts in the US population, with the biggest growth in numbers found in southern and western cities, and the biggest losses in north-eastern cities.

“As cities move increasingly into a knowledge-based economy, the kind of talented people each area attracts will determine whether it wins or loses in the campaign for future prosperity,” says a report issued with the study.

Attracting 25 to 34 year olds is “critical” because it is between those ages that people have the greatest flexibility to relocate.

Factors behind Atlanta’s success in wooing the “young and restless” include its relatively low cost of living, plentiful jobs in growing industries, popular universities, large airport, warm climate and diverse culture, says Mr Williams. In addition to deepening the talent pool available to businesses, he says the influx has made Atlanta more attractive to high-tech and creative enterprises and spurred entrepreneurial growth.

As I keep saying, whether we are talking about cities or about countries, there will be winners and losers here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Then US may look good from a demograghic perspective but what about its debt levels, it inability to regulate immigration, its mediocre productivity, its lack of savings, not to mention its lack of preparation for peak oil.

The US can only improve its medical system if it cracks down on illegal immigration. Then it might be able to persuit the population to go for a more straightforward, socialised medical system for lower and middle income citizens.

However,if taxpayers perceive that increasing numbers of immigrants are taking advantage of subsidised health care they will simply pull the funding plug.

I think there is a lot to said for public health systems with judicious use of part-charging.

One thing I can't undertand about Britain is why the NHS doesn't go for part-charging.

Many people have to wait weeks to see a doctor in the UK since medical centres are clogged with people coming in with minor complaints.