Millennials are Saving St. Louis, and Why We Need More of Them

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The Millennials are coming! The Millennials are coming! For St. Louis, some seem unsure whether Paul Revere or Chicken Little is the messenger. This past decade, 20 to 34 year-olds moved into the City of St. Louis at a higher rate than at any time in the past half century, by far. The Millennial generation, those born in the early 1980s to 2000, are credited with revitalizing urban neighborhoods across the nation. They’re also mocked for wearing tight jeans, riding steel bicycles, and enjoying craft beer. But only the willfully ignorant or those preening on the journalistic crutch of self-righteous certainty bestowed upon them by decades of the same, can deny the massive and unprecedented demographic shift that is remaking our inner cities.

In the 1970s, net migration of 20-24 year-olds in the City of St. Louis was -24.1/100. Those who stayed kept the city from turning out the lights. The revitalization of Soulard and Lafayette Square got started that decade. We may owe the existence of those neighborhoods to those individuals. Yet many more neighborhoods fell. Young people were fleeing the city. In fact, every age group was fleeing St. Louis in the 1970s. The city lost a net 169,435 residents that decade, 27.2% of its population. So yes, thank you for painting that Victorian on Mississippi, but your generation hated the city. Oh, and every age group saw a negative net migration in the 1960s and the 1980s too.

The city was dying. Cities don’t die when some people leave, some groups have always left, but when everyone’s leaving, cities die. Then in the 1990s, people aged 20-29 produced the first positive net migration for any group since the 1950s. These are the GenXers. And oh my God, just wait until some blinkered editorial key pecker is told that GenX deserves credit for resuscitating St. Louis and other American cities. Net migration for 25-29 year-olds has rocketed from -28.1/100 in the 1970s, to 11.8/100 in the 1990s, to 35/100 in the 2000s. This is an unprecedented demographic shift in our city

Sure, there have always been urban pioneers. In St. Louis, this young adult group spans from Pierre Laclede to Stephanie, the 20-something entrepreneur who just ordered an Indonesian Tana Toraja pour over on South Jefferson. It’s notable, but not remarkable, that this cohort has nearly always accounted for a disproportionate share of city growth. The difference is that the current iteration of this group is moving into the City of St. Louis and other urban centers in numbers not seen in a century, maybe longer.

The coffeehouses and dog parks are the superficial markers someone unwilling or unable to use empirical data, or unaware of larger cultural shifts, uses to apply a veneer of sameness over the real change. Some conclude that this new generation of self-aggrandizing, self-appointed city-savers haven’t earned anything, that their pompous self-importance is nothing new. This is false. No single generation “saves” a city, but Millennials are having a greater positive impact on the population of the City of St. Louis than any generation in several generations. And yet it’s apparently more comfortable to offer a rhetorical ear flip to a new generation than recognize how the world is changing around you.

Late last year the Millennial effect on Baltimore City received some positive press. The source of the good news and optimism was a project produced by The Applied Population Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin. What it showed was a massive increase in the net migration rate for 19-29 year olds. This was a welcome change, and seen as further proof of the Millennial preference for urban living. The rate for the 20-24-year-old cohort tripled. The 25-29 cohort exploded from a -1.9/100 net migration in the 1990’s to a +27.2/100 in the 2000s.

For those willing to acknowledge the above, the rejoinder is often a sharp, “but will they stay?” Well of course they won’t stay. In this past American century younger generations have always left our older central cities as they age. Until the 1990s, 20-29 year olds in the City of St. Louis were leaving. Those GenXers who delivered the first positive net migration numbers for the city are now at -13.15/100 net migration as 30-39 year olds, the lowest negative net number in the past 60 years for that age group. Today, 50-59 and 60-69 year olds are also at their lowest negative net number since at least 1950, at -7.7 and -8.85/100 respectively.

The Millennials, as they age, will not keep coming to the City of St. Louis in the numbers they are now. But if the past 30 years serve as a guide, more will stay than past generations. The key for St. Louis is to continue to be a magnet for 20-somethings. The real question doesn’t appear to be how many will leave, but rather how many more can the city attract? They’re going to leave, and likely in large numbers, but virtually no comparable city, nor cities St. Louis may aspire to emulate, has been able to stop this trend. When looking across the experience of American cities since 1950, residents aged 0-14 and 35-75+ have left urban centers everywhere. This is true of the older industrial cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, but also Boston, San Francisco, and Denver.

Boston has gained population each of the past three decades. The only positive net migration has come from 15-29 year olds over that period. Every other age group has left the city in greater numbers than it has arrived. Philadelphia’s population has remained relatively stable since 1980 (~-8%). That city only saw positive net migration from 20-29 year olds in the 80s and 90s and 15-29 year olds in the 00s. So how does St. Louis compare across age groups?

In the 2000s, the City of St. Louis outperformed Suffolk County, MA (Boston) in net migration of 30-74 year olds. That would seem incredible. St. Louis is holding onto this age group at a higher rate than Boston. This past decade, St. Louis had virtually identical net migration numbers for 35-74 year olds as San Francisco. And yet, the City of St. Louis is neither Boston, nor San Francisco. Numbers in Denver and Washington D.C. follow a similar pattern. In the 2000s, the net migration for 20-24 year olds in Boston was 150.5/100 and in San Francisco, 101.1/100. While the St. Louis number was a positive number, it was just 18.7/100. For 25-29 year olds: Boston = 75/100, San Francisco = 172.9/100, St. Louis = 35/100. That is, Boston attracted 20-29 year olds at four times and San Francisco at five times the rate of St. Louis

Millennials are changing St. Louis in numbers no other generation of the past half century has matched. But if the city wants to be a technology hub, wants to be an entrepreneurial center, a smart city, a vibrant city, an economically healthy city, it will need more of them, and more of the next generation, and the generation after that. The higher the peak of in-migration for the 20-29 year old cohort, the larger the impact in future years.

These are the numbers and trends. They’re real. What the numbers do not, and can not, do is assign causes to why generational numbers have shifted so dramatically in American cities, including St. Louis. Has the decline in urban crime made cities more inviting? Did public policy such as denial of mortgage insurance for large swaths of cities and highway expansion push past generations to leave? Have historic buildings and their renovation attracted new residents? Are education options improving? Or is it a broad societal shift that places less value on the relative seclusion and tranquility of the suburbs? Is it extended adolescence and putting off marriage and children?

Of course a city would like to retain more people of all ages and so an all-of-the-above approach is necessary, but if you think Millennials are just the latest in self-proclaimed urban savoirs, you couldn’t be more wrong. Whether we’re blind to this, or aware of and understand its impact, will help determine the future of St. Louis. Before a mayor is criticized for courting young people (Meanwhile City of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has been re-elected several times by dominating the over 55 vote. And while we’re at it, there’s no evidence that calls for snow service came from the ironic mustachioed vegans more than any other group in the city.), the revolutionary change in city demographics must be admitted.

The difference between St. Louis and places like San Francisco, Denver, D.C., and Boston isn’t that we’re losing families with young children, 40-somethings, or empty nesters, it’s that we’re failing to attract Millennials on the scale of those places. The current differentiator between places like Cleveland and Detroit is that the City of St. Louis has net positive migration for 20-29 year olds. Neither Cleveland nor Detroit can say that. Other age groups track closely. So you want a brighter future for St. Louis? Hope that we’re a little more like Denver and a little less like Detroit? We had better do all we can to ensure the Millennials are coming!

(because there are many ways to approach understanding the history of net migration by age groups in the City of St. Louis, the following additional graphs are offered)

*”Net migration” is the balance of in-migrants minus out-migrants. If no one leaves and no one arrives, net migration equals zero. If 10 residents leave and 10 new residents arrive, net migration is zero. So when net migration for 25 to 29 year-olds was -28.1/100 in the City of St. Louis in the 1970s, it could be that 28 residents of that age group left and zero arrived. Of course the reality is that people of all age groups are moving into the city each year. Net migration is a measure of how many individuals the city has gained each year (arrivals minus departures).

*All data derived from Net Migration Patterns for US Counties, a project of The Applied Population Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin

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  • John R

    With newly released Census data on age demographics, it appears that the region may not be doing so well with attracting Millennials since 2010. The estimates through 2014 show that Saint Louis City and County together added very few 20 year olds (the City lost 20-24 yr. olds and added 25-29 yr. olds while the County was the reverse) and while we did better with the oldest group of Millennials, the 30-34 yr. olds, we lagged far behind the core counties of Rust Belt peers like Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit, let alone the metros where there is overall population growth.

    A lot of complex things are going on with the data, but I think the Saint Louis metro may be falling behind in the race for millennials.

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  • JohnThomas52

    Below is a link that shows how STL compares to other cities for where young people migrate to. For 2011-2012, St. Louis had a large negative net migration according to map legend–7,769 people moved out of STL, which indicates population loss. There were roughly 700 or so young people with bachelor’s degrees that moved in to STL but that pales in comparison to nearly 10x the folks that left, which includes close to 1000 people with advanced degrees. I guess people go where there are more young folk, better job opportunities, diversity, friendliness, amenities, or whatever else. This is how St. Louis stacks up against the other cities in terms of where young people go. It’s not bad.

    People, young or old, may have different motivations for moving in or moving out of St. Louis. It should be interesting to see what happens in 5-10 years, though I’ve seen predictions that STL is expected to have future population loss with an estimate of 300,000 by 2020. Currently, it is around 318,000 in population.

    If I were young, not sure if I would want to stay in St. Louis. Sounds more fun to explore living in a bunch of different cities before I settled.

    • Alex Ihnen

      The link is to a story about migration by education level, and not age. It shows the STL metro losing a lot of residents with less than a four-year college degree, a gain of residents with a bachelor’s, and a loss of residents with advanced degrees. There are many, many caveats here though – look no further than New York, Boston, Philadelphia or Chicago to see cities most would consider being economically stronger than St. Louis, but that appear to be hemorrhaging educated residents.

      • John R

        Keep in mind as well this is domestic migration only. Most of those cities you cite do pretty well attracting foreign born who bring a lot of talent and economic strength. Unfortunately, we don’t do well with immigration which is part of the reason we are a slow, slow growth region.

        • JohnThomas52

          Foreign borns with high skills and education tend to like large metro areas where they can find greater racial acceptance and less hostility. You should ask non-white people, say Asian Indians (from Indian sub-continent, not native Americans), about their racial experiences in St. Louis. A lot of hatred is what they encounter. I don’t ever think that they should go south to the Ozarks where “code of the hills” (white supremacy) is prevalent. See:

          In Jefferson County, there’s quite a few folks that raise the Confederate flag and not the American flag. Not sure exactly what it means, racially or not (perhaps political or cultural). Also, some JeffCo. folks may hold Ku Klux Klan membership. Bringing in foreign born to this area or to rural Missouri, like Ozarks, is not a good idea if it puts them at risk of any racial hatred encounters. It will only make St. Louis look bad when it makes national news and give STL a bad reputation. Tell those foreign borns to keep out of them parts for their own safety. Same for Blacks.

  • BudSTL

    I suspect that all of those people moving to O’Fallon and the like are seeking a better cultural experience and a wider diversity of dining options. For example, I don’t know of one O’Charley’s or Ruby Tuesday’s inside the city limits at all! And who want to live in one of those old, solid brick homes when you can get your 3,500 sq.ft. vinly-sided, nail-gun-job on 2 acres that you can pay someone to cut?
    Seriously, it is time to enhance the schooling options for young families so that they can reasonably choose to stay in the city.

    • Alex Ihnen

      In many ways, that’s part of the story – improving school options. The situation today is much better than 5yrs ago, which was much better than 5yrs before that. What we’ll see in another 5yrs will be another big step forward. It’s happening, and quickly in the larger scheme of typical glacial change in education.

      • BudSTL

        We need liberation of our taxed based education dollars through a free market voucher system. Not popular, but very effective in placing the correct incentives in place.

        • Don

          We have charter schools that has been part of the solution. We need more of them. We also have our fair share of poorly run charter schools run by kooks who know nothing about education and are simply looking to scam tax dollars. The Mayor has been aggressive about shutting down the failures.

  • Frenchy

    I’m a Millennial and quite honestly, I think St. Louis, as a city, is quite boring. To me, there is nothing new and exciting about St. Louis as least socially, that is. And many of my friends whom have visited or use to live here (most have moved to chicago, bay area or the east coast) would have to agree.

    The common question my colleagues and I are always asking is “Where to next?” After a baseball game, if we want to go to Soulard, we have to drive there (taking the bus or the metro really isn’t an option) or even to the dismal Wash Ave, where it’s the same 5 bars that are our only option. If it’s 10 or 11pm on a Saturday, and I am hungry, there should be some dining options. If I want to go see a movie (MX nor the Chase count as theaters because their showings are limited) or go to a comedy club, I shouldn’t have to drive to the suburbs.

    And in my opinion, people are silly to think we Millennials will stay in the city. Once we get married, and start having a family, a lot of us will move to the suburbs. Schooling is much better, as is property value (you get more bang for your buck) and the drive to the city is only 20 minutes away.

    • Pat

      So what’s your point? Are going to do anything about or complain? No one is stopping you from moving. Act to fix the problem

      • Frenchy

        Considering that I was born and raised in St. Louis, I’d prefer not to move, but it could be an option. I’ve lived in the city for the last few years and recently, in my opinion, city life could be better. I simply can not enhance the transit system, nor can I add more shops and restaurants in the city, but if I could, I would 🙂

        • John R

          The transit issue is a huge one for us on so many levels, including attracting young adults. Actually it is rather remarkable that we have such a growing number of appealing districts like Morgan Ford, Cherokee Street, The Grove, Midtown/GC etc. when we have such lousy transit connections and paltry and unreliable cab service to top things off. Just think what this city could be like if we were able to move people around easily. and efficiently.

        • Adam

          “I simply can not enhance the transit system, nor can I add more shops and restaurants in the city, but if I could, I would :)”

          eh, this just isn’t true–it’s a matter of priorities. it would take effort and sacrifice (for a while at least) but you could open a shop or a restaurant and contribute. you could make a concerted effort to support transit by riding it. it seems your priority is to live somewhere that other people have made fun and easy. that’s fine–it’s the choice that most people make–but it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. for many, St. Louis itself is the priority and it’s their hard work that will ultimately attract more people like yourself.

    • Tara

      All due respect to Frenchy, but since you listed only two neighborhoods as your only options for nightlife, I have to think that you simply aren’t aware of what the City has to offer (which can only come as a result of really not trying to be). There is a LOT more going on than Soulard and Wash Ave (thank God), and you can find out about some of it via any search engine, events calendar, radio station, or in one of the several fabulous free print magazines that are in just about every independent business in the City…

    • Frenchy, I agree with you. I grew up in the city and lived there for all of my 28 years. I’ve seen a lot of change from what it was when I was a kid/teen/young adult, but it’s far, far from where it needs to be. I took public transportation the entire time I lived there (I didn’t even get a driver’s license until I was 24,) and unless you’re going anywhere served by the metrolink, you’re pretty much screwed by 11pm or midnight. I resisted moving for a long time because of my love for St. Louis, but eventually Chicago won out. Now I’m two minutes from the train, am able to walk the the grocery store, and can stay out all night if I’d like, discovering new bars and restaurants. Not that I do, though, because the catch 22 of living in an exciting place is that you can’t afford to go out 😉

    • South City Resident

      Frenchy, you should get out and experience more of the city. I have never found it boring. We have tons of up and coming areas, and many that are established and super fun. Just a few examples: Cherokee street has a thriving bar/club/restaurant scene; The Grove has a thriving bar/club/restaurant scene; the City Loop has a thriving bar/club/restaurant scene; same with South Grand, Morganford just south of Arsenal, the Central West End. There’s a lot more than just Soulard and Washington Avenue (which are nowhere near the best, IMO). Most of those areas have places that are open very late, and some are even 24 hours.

      The schooling issue is a misconception, IMO. Our kid goes to a gifted magnet school in the city, so it’s free and excellent. The magnet system is an excellent choice. Additionally, there are tons of charter schools now, also free, and private schools, if you choose that option. That said, the STL city district is really improving, and can really only be judged on a school by school basis.

      Some links that will help you explore past the standard, more well known areas: (great restaurant guide)

  • Roger Mexico

    Young people with disposable income (25-29) are usually
    renters, and so their impact tends to be discounted. However their disposable income and vibrancy fuels business districts like the Grove, South Grand, etc. Their rents support rehabs of multifamily buildings (often the worst buildings in a neighborhood which hold down property values/desirability of adjacent single families).

    The number of young residents attracted to the city can increase without overall regional growth… lots of my young tenants grew up in the suburbs. I’d be interested in more discussion/posts of which public policy priorities could best attract larger numbers of young people.

    It is also obviously important to increase the fraction ofthose young people that are later converted into homeowners. Here the policy priorities (schools, crime) are clearer and again it seems to me that progress is being made here in some neighborhoods.

    • John R

      I look forward as well to Alex having a follow-up post on policy proscriptions for attracting more young adults to Saint Louis in a low-growth regional environment.

      • Ann Wimsatt

        Quantifying a city’s draw for specific groups of Millennials is the next step in a useful analysis.

  • HamTech87

    I’ve been trying to figure out why some colleges get popular while others whither. Then a “duh!” moment: hot cities attract interest in the colleges there. But then I was wondering about WashU, which is hot, in an un-hot city. Guess I was wrong about STL.

  • llockhartstl

    Where did they come from? Where do they work?

    • John R

      They come from all over, but compared to hotter cities that offer better job prospects for recent college grads, we’re more of a regional draw.. so for example recent grads from say Mizzou or Truman State who grew up in the county and return to the area but choose to now live in the City are pretty common. We do have a fair number of SLU and WashU students, many of whom are from outside the region, and the more we can retain them the better. But we aren’t a big college town like Boston or the Bay Area so those numbers are relatively small. Yet another challenge!

  • Presbyterian

    My only objection is to the notion of “35-74 year olds” as a category. Let’s hope that doesn’t catch on.

    • Eric

      If you were 73 years old you’d love the category.

  • In you nextPoll, the option of proximity to restaurants, bars, retail, gyms, etc. was not available. In Baltimore, the growing neighborhoods are almost all in neighborhoods with independent restaurants, retail, coffee, gyms, yoga, pet stores, etc

  • John R

    The cool chart maker from the project is pretty fascinating… e.g. just plugging in different counties like Boone (Columbia). Too bad they don’t have this for I’d love to get a better picture of cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Kansas City, etc.that have significant county population outside city limits.

    But my favorite chart is mapping Saint Louis, Baltimore and Philadelphia. All three are city/counties and have relatively equal net migration of 20-34 yr. olds but Philly’s better performance with 35-49 year olds and children is what allowed them to net an overall small population gain while we lost over 8%. Baltimore is interesting in that it performs almost exactly as Philly with 35-49 yr. olds, but it is midway b/w Philly and Saint Lou on children…. hence it lost about 4.5%. I guess they don’t have as much sexytime in Baltimore as in Philly!

    Anyway, I think the Saint Lou/Philly/Baltimore comparison is a good one — and more realistic than comparing against super hot-spots with completely different socio-economic dynamics — and shows that we can indeed improve performance significantly if we do a better job at retaining families in conjunction with attracting more young adults. Our neighborhoods are fantastic places to raise families so it can be done!

    • Alex Ihnen

      It is fun. One thing I found fascinating was that the City of St. Louis appears to be an exact opposite of my home county in terms of net migration trends. It’s not so surprising I guess – historic urban center v. rural small town Indiana, but interesting none-the-less.

      • dempster holland

        Historicallly, it is the 2o year olds who migrate. So some of the 20s
        migration to the central cities will be from small towns, some from
        other countries, some from our own suburbs. An interesting note
        is that north st louis has relatively fewer new persons in their 20s. a
        reflection of greatly diminished black migration from the south and
        perhaps also a black cultural preference for newer housing after
        all these years. New housing in the central corridor and near north
        side does appear to attract black residents, however, not sure how
        many are from the city or how many moving back from suburbs

      • John R

        Staying on Indiana, have any thoughts on what is going on in the Indianapolis region? Marion Co./Indy outperformed Saint Louis City (and presumably even moreso in the core closer to downtown) and particularly so when you combine Saint Louis County and City as the county migrated out millennials. But what really stuck out to me was Hamilton County, which while losing on the 20-24 yr. old segment performed great on 25-29 yr. olds and was off-the-charts on 30-44 yr. olds. Our roughly equivalent county, St. Chuck’s, was nowhere near this performance.

        Greater Indy seems to be doing a solid job and it appears that they may be bringing in large numbers of 25-40 yr. olds from outside the region. I also wonder if Carmel, etc. is doing a better job at making their suburban locals more “trendy” than say St. Charles or O’Fallon.

        Any idea what is going on?

  • Staci

    I’m 25 and just bought a beautiful house in Dutchtown. Why? St. Louis City is extremely affordable and I work and play in the city. Why not live here too?

  • John R

    Alex, hopefully you can address the discrepancy in the Census data shown here by a comparison of the 2000 and 2010 census data:

    It could be that the data from U of Wisconsin is seriously flawed for STL City.

    • Alex Ihnen

      The issue is that we’re talking about two different things. From the explanation in a previous comment: “Every county in the St. Louis metro region showed huge gains in 55-64 year olds from 2000 to 2010 (40-50%+ in St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, Lincoln County, and the City). Those “gains” aren’t people moving to STL, or even around STL, they’re Boomers aging in place. Net migration shows who’s coming and going instead of showing population gains for specific age groups that are the product of aging residents.”

      • John R

        Thanks. I cross-posted below and yes, that makes sense. By looking at the absolute numbers though it is clear that we have to do a much better job at retaining young families if we have any shot at gaining population. Staunching the bleeding in this segment combined with more twenty-somethings is what we need. Either that or bring one or two major universities to town.

        • Alex Ihnen

          Again, though, I’d propose that where St. Louis is under performing cities such as Boston, D.C., San Francisco and Denver (etc.), is with Millennials. And regardless of the the generation’s title, a city must attract more young people before it can hope to hold onto them. I found no instances of a huge net influx of residents after age 30. So the higher the peak of 20-29 year olds, the more residents a city will add long term.

          • John R

            Philadelphia is more of a realistic model for us than San Fran or Boston…. those places are just on another orbit than ours. Philly has about the same influx of 20 – 35 yr. olds but significantly outperforms us on the 35-55 yr. olds and their minors even though they, too, saw a net loss in these segments. That is how they grew though. Yes, we must add more young people but we have to be realistic on what we can accomplish on that front. Only when we can achieve better results on families like Philadelphia can we expect to gain population. Let’s look at how cities like Philly do that just as much as we look at how to boost the influx of young adults. We need both equally.

          • Ann Wimsatt

            All of the comparisons are useful, in my opinion. The STL millennial community may have more in common with the Brooklyn and SF community than with the Chicago, Manhattan and Philly millennial community.

            Large employers like AB, Monsanto, Cortex, Express Scripts and Centene should take a creative look at the way that WIFI enabled Transport Coaches draw more Millennials into SF proper.

            Look at the map showing recently registered cafes and restaurants in SF–many forming along the Tech Bus stops.

            Tech buses are a divisive issue, but they may be the stop gap measure preceding the inevitable increase in mass transit projects and an increase in tech firms locating in the city rather out in the suburbs.

  • matimal

    Millenials don’t have anything to lose. They don’t want to, or can’t, become invested in the surburban highway, strip mall industrial complex. They CAN afford still cheap housing in cities. The CAN see how living in cities will reduce their living expenses without reducing their social options. They are less sure that they will have to physically be in suburban locations. There is real economic self-interest at work here, not just youthful contrarianness. Still, I wonder, whose going to buy boomers’ suburban homes when they want to retire to Florida?

    • Alex Ihnen

      And yet cheap housing clearly isn’t what’s driving the influx of Millennials to cities like Boston and San Francisco, where the numbers are 4x+ those in St. Louis.

      • matimal

        Housing is expensive all parts of metro Boston and San Francisco. The entire metros are expensive. It is actually quite a bit cheaper to live without a car in a small Brooklyn apartment than in a 2000 sq. ft. suburban home in New Jersey if you count all expenses.

        • Alex Ihnen

          But the issue isn’t that younger generations aren’t leaving those cities for the suburbs (they are), but that young people are moving to those cities, despite the relatively high prices.

          • John R

            Young adults are able to tough it out for awhile in places like San Fran and D.C. for a bit in a $1,500/mo. studio or have a bunch of roommates, but that only has a certain shelf-life. And if you co-habitate with someone, let alone have a child on the way, good luck! Sure for some money is no big concern, but for most In terms of housing in these hot spots, you don’t really live, you merely get by. Different dynamics than here for why thirty-somethings begin to migrate out.

          • Ann Wimsatt

            Look at nextSTL’s recent poll. What’s the leading reason Alex’s readers move into the city? Cultural attractions.
            Millennials live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, SF and Boston because the cultural offerings are insane.Those cities offer a great cultural lifestyle for all budgets and millennials who like the stimulation of a big city love living in those cities–if they can find a job that supports them.

            Families leave big cities when they send their children to school. In previous generations, families did not return to cities–but previous generations did not yearn for city life like this generation. This generation is different. Significant numbers of millennials are making big sacrifices ($$$) to live in dynamic cities.

          • John R

            We’re in sort of a Golden Age for cities and I think we’ll likely see continued improvement in almost all segments in the next census … cities are simply more attractive now than in the rough post-war decades before the tide started to turn in the 90s. So it will be interesting to see the results of 2020… hopefully this oldie is still around then!

            There’s no question schools are an important part of the equation for net migration to trend down for thirty-somethings in major cities but I also believe that affordable housing pressures are a significant factor as well regardless of family status. Finding affordable housing in Saint Louis City in an attractive neighborhood with decent cultural amenities is much easier here than in San Fran or Boston. And that likely is particularly true for families seeking a backyard and tree-lined streets.

          • dempster holland

            NYC, SF and Boston are all on oceans, which not only
            provide interesting beaches, etc, but result in a cosmopol-
            itan atmosphere which inherently attracts artistic types,
            entrepeneurs, young immigrants, etc LA, Seattle, Baltimore,
            Philadelphia , Houston have similar advantages. Of the “great”
            cities, only Chicago, Atlanta, and Dallas lack an ocean. St
            Louis cannot overcome the advantages of no ocean, and
            it has missed the boat of being a major regional hub such
            as Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas. We are more like Cleveland,
            Cincinatti, Pittsburg, KC and Minneapolis–but at least we are
            all still major league cities, at least in baseball. And like these
            cities, our basic hope is that we develop new export indus-
            tries which replace the older ones which diminish–indeed,
            that is one of the arguments for attracting intelligent
            young people

          • Ann Wimsatt

            Manhattan may technically be close to the ocean but it takes 4 to 8 hours to get from Manhattan to the beaches in the Hamptons. St Louisans could be on the beaches of Lake Michigan in about the same time– if the beach culture was the same.

            Interestingly, both Detroit and Cleveland have fabulous lakes and water activities, yet St Louis is beating both of them in the Millennial Sweepstakes.

            WUSTL will never be the top university in the country. Likewise, STL will never be a top tier millennial destination but it could possibly inch its way up the rankings by 1) figuring out what makes the city attractive to the current millennials 2) acknowledging and supporting the current Millennial culture in the city and 3) polishing those aspects that make the city attractive to millennial migrants.

          • HamTech87

            Not sure your statement about Wash U is correct.
            Sure it is just one ranking, but given the proliferation of rankings, it is not bad. And being on the East Coast, I can tell you that WashU is very hot among high school students. (Note: I didn’t go to WashU.)

          • Ann Wimsatt

            The truth about WUSTL’s ‘hot’ factor is in it’s acceptance rate. WUSTL accepts nearly 18% of all applicants. Super hot schools accept between 6% and 10% of applicants and they don’t award merit scholarships for high SATs.

          • Alex Ihnen

            And this is because WU’s yield rate, those who are accepted who decide to attend, is less than some “super hot” schools. Just one comparison: Yale = ~1,350/undergraduate class, WU = ~1,500. Yale applications = 27,282 (2011), WU = 28,823. Yale accepted 2,000 students to yield a class of 1,350. WU accepted 4,750 to yield 1,500.

          • Ann Wimsatt

            WUSTL has done a great job of attracting top students and placing in the top 20 universities in the country. Top cities have top universities. WUSTL’s success helps STL outdo Cleveland and Pittsbugh. WUSTL’s Millennial grads are a good measure of STL’s potential to draw Millennials. STL could probably take a few pointers from WUSTL’s marketing and campus development programs.

          • Eric

            This ranking is based on some totally arbitrary measurement created by a for-profit business in order to promote themselves. I wouldn’t pay much attention to it.
            Look at SAT scores instead.

          • John R

            Are we out-preforming places like Cleveland in this so-called Millennial Sweepstakes? Any data? Downtown and some nabes like Ohio City are pretty hot as well as some emerging spots but not sure how things overall are.
            Alex’s source material is great for counties but unfortunately not for cities like Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Detroit that would be good peer comparison cities but are only a portion of a larger county.

          • Ann Wimsatt

            The numbers say we are outperforming cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh in the Millennial Sweepstakes.

          • John R

            Good link and nice to see we’re doing well with college-educated. Obviously this is just looking at one segment — the most desirable one from an economic perspective — but this info would seem to suggest that we’d perform better against Baltimore and Philly than what we see in the net migration data in Alex’s post…. it looks like we may have slightly outperformed Baltimore but underperformed compared to Philly.
            Anyway, it would be nice to be able to easily graph net migration of the other cities…. it makes intuitive sense that we’re doing better than Cleveland as they lost 16% of population overall compared to our 8%, but it is always good to see the real data.

          • John R

            I’d like to get a better handle on Pittsburgh… US census estimates that it has gained population between ’10&’12 and it certainly has been getting a lot of positive press in recent years as a comeback city. Not sure if they’ve outpaced us in recent years on Millennials or if the growth is coming from elsewhere, but something appears to be happening there.

          • dempster holland

            Instead of a 4 to 8 hour trip to the Hamptons, how about
            a one-hour subway ride to Coney Island. It is true that
            many St Louisans go the the eastern shore of Lake Michigan

          • Ann Wimsatt

            Jones Beach is the best public beach within an hour and a half of Manhattan.

          • Eric

            The biggest factor separating the “great” and “non-great” cities you list is not oceans but population. Every “great” city you list has more than twice the population of St Louis (except Baltimore, which I think you’re incorrect to list as “great”). Every city you listed as similar to St Louis is also in the Midwest and has a similar population.

          • dempster holland

            A major reason the ocean-front cities have a large population
            is that they are oceanfront cities

  • Sivad

    I’m in the Gen-Xer range that moved to St. Louis in September of 2013 as my girlfriend was starting grad school at SLU. Prior to July of last year I had never been to St. Louis (unless a stopover at Lambert in the 80s counts), and from the first moment I saw the Arch I was smitten. I’ve lived, and visited, a lot of places across the country, but there really hasn’t been a major city that has sucked me in quite like St. Louis. The history, architecture, parks, cultural amenities, etc., are fantastic. I brag on this city every chance I get. I’ve run into plenty of people (in the city and county) who don’t seem to realize how great of a place St. Louis is, and it’s unfortunate. For the long-time residents of the area – don’t sell the city short, St. Louis is awesome. I’m excited about the city’s future as I see rehab and new construction every day. I think St. Louis is definitely on the right track, and there’s a long way to go, but damn it’s a neat feeling to be a part of process.

  • Devin R

    I love how this article is like a big middle finger to Joe Holleman. Thank you for that!

    As for the other commenters: did you guys read the whole article? All this talk about school fixes and retaining millennials in the future and not giving credit to the ones who came before… Alex was perfectly clear about 1) the fact that Millenials won’t, and don’t need to, stay and 2) giving credit to ALL the people who helped this city survive.

    • RyleyinSTL

      Alex was clear (and wrote a great article), it just got us thinking.

  • urbanmo

    This is great news, but you shouldn’t simply accept that the millennials will leave.

    If city residents were given good educational choices. and the state and city were working together to ensure that everyone in the city had the resources to send their kids to the private, public or charter school of their choosing (within reason of course), then families would move TO the city for education, and the millennials who are already there would stay put.

    The increase in millennials is also coupled by an increase in people who are 50+. What do those two groups have in common? No kids. This is proof that there are many educational refugees just waiting for better options to be made available in the city.

    If everyone in the city had meaningful educational choice, the momentum in growth could be sustained and would compound over the years.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Not to repeat myself (too many times), but I think it’s important to reiteration this point: “No reason to neglect public policies attempting to retain young families, but we need to know that virtually every comparable city loses young families. That is, no urban center has “solved” that issue. What other cities have done is figured out how to attract more young people – who then result in more people of older generations staying. Let’s do that.”

      • urbanmo

        I feel like I’m arguing with you here, but I’m really not because I agree with most of what you are saying.

        I am proposing a solution to the issue though – use government funds to support the educational choices of families.

        People reportedly moved to Normandy, of all places, to take advantage of the school transfer law. How many people would move to or stay in the city if similar options were available to city resideints.

      • Kyle Broyles

        The American Dream:
        Big House
        Big Yard
        Cadillac in the driveway
        Golden Retriever
        Perfect Kids
        Inevitably, we have migrated back to the suburbs when the time comes to think seriously about a family. The American dream has never been portrayed as living in a major urban center and having a luxury loft or condo, having your kids share a playground, and taking your golden retriever down an elevator to do his business every morning. The real issue of urban flight is finding a place to make the American dream come true, and for too many Americans, owning an above described property in ANY urban city limits is unattainable. It’s no surprise that major urban centers become the hub of choice for non-traditional families.

        I agree that the focus should be on attracting, and I too think a slight focus on retention is important. However, I believe that if your attraction mechanisms are strong enough, retention will be a natural by-product.

        • John R.

          Saint Louis nabes are not condos, luxury lofts and elevators. They are nice single families with backyards, walkable streets and nearby parks. They are the perfect setting for raising families. That is what is so frustrating with so many leaving.

          • Ann Wimsatt

            Manhattan has great neighborhoods with great parks, amazing kid’s playgrounds and amazing museums within walking distance. Go to a kid’s playground in Manhattan and make friends with the world. It’s an incredible environment. And Manhattan has far more ‘walkable’ streets than STL City. Anyone can walk for miles on end, 18 hours a day. Like other dense cities, Manhattan is the perfect setting for raising kids–except for the density.

          • John R

            I don’t follow… Kyle seemed to suggest that Saint Louis City is full of luxury lofts and elevator living and there were no places that have many of the same “family amenities” as in the suburbs such as single-family homes with back yards and garages and where you can have dogs and kids. Simply not true!

            And I’m also confused because before you said that cities were “quite inhospitable” to raising young families and now you say that except for the density even Manhattan is the perfect setting for raising kids!

          • Ann Wimsatt

            My statements have been consistent. Cities are somewhat inhospitable for families with children ages 5 to 12 because of increased supervision requirements, increased security at city schools and lack of green field amenities at city schools. Families with primary school age children move out of US cities when their children reach kindergarten age.

          • John R

            The phrase you originally used was that cities are “not that hospitable” and not “quite inhospitable” as I said above so my apologies on that…. still a strong statement though and now you say that cities are “somewhat inhospitable.” which is progress! Sure, most families find it easier to live in the burbs and more of a challenge in the cities (and our public policies have helped make that so) but that is a quite different statement than saying that cities are inhospitable to young families. Again, many of us find them to be quite the opposite.

          • Alex Ihnen

            The issue for my family was relatively hospitability. 😉 But really, in St. Louis there’s the option of moving a couple miles have having a different experience, for very near the same money, and only a small penalty in your commute (depending on your situation, of course).

          • John R

            No doubt our region has made it very easy to live in the suburbs –not only in First Suburbs like UC but even out in St. Chucks Co — and that is part of the challenge for drawing and keeping young families here. But it can be done and the kicker is you have the multiplier effect going in with respect to population growth (or loss mitigation as it were in our fair city) so it does need to be a big part of equation..
            My big beef with the use of the term “hospitable” btw is that it connotes value judgments, and the suggestion by Ann, whether intentional or not, is that parents do a disservice to their children if they raise them in cities because of an inhospitable environment. Not cool imo!

          • Ann Wimsatt

            So, ‘somewhat inhospitable’ is not a ‘value judgement’ leveled as an attack on anyone else. It’s a statement of my opinion only.

            Opinions and value judgments are two different things. My opinion is based on five years experience in a very dense city with small children as well data surveys over the past 30 years.

            Plenty of friends stayed in the dense city to raise their children but most moved out to the suburbs for primary school. Everyone’s mileage differed.

            I agree with Alex. Most families move to the suburbs when they have school age children because they find the city ‘somewhat inhospitable’.

          • HamTech87

            In NYC, this is not the case as much. The public schools have improved, and parents are staying in the city to raise their kids. And those that move out to the suburbs seek NYC-like characteristics, like “useful walks” as opposed to trails to nowhere.

          • Ann Wimsatt

            Schooling has been a nightmare in Manhattan–from preschool onwards–for the last 30 years at least. There aren’t enough public or private schools and the cost of opening a new school is prohibitive. Lots of parents who lived through the social pressure of having their 2 year old perform at the ’99th percentile’ moved to the burbs to get away from that pressure.

          • HamTech87

            I agree except for your comment about “density” not being perfect for raising kids. On the contrary, density makes it a fabulous place to raise kids. And the great transit. Kids learn to navigate the transit system and don’t need to be driven around that much. The subways and public buses are packed with kids before and after school, and those kids can get to their after-school activities quite easily.

            The other result of living in such a dense city is that the kids are in much better physical health — because they walk everywhere! Go to plenty of suburban or exurban communities, and the streets are deserted and the backyards barely used except by the landscapers.

          • Ann Wimsatt

            Young children in St Louis and Manhattan do not ride mass transit by themselves anymore. They rode mass transit through the 1960s, but they do not do that now.

            Teenagers ride the mass transit in St Louis and Manhattan.

            The challenges of raising children in a dense city often outweigh the benefits. If the benefits outweighed the challenges, the majority of young families would choose city life. St Louis wouldn’t close so many schools.

        • Brian

          My American Dream:

          2.5 story house in Tower Grove South

          Flower & vegetable gardens and TGP as my “front yard”

          Bi-State (Metro for millennials) as my Cadillac

          Golden retriever & a pack of cats

          5 not-so-perfect kids, but with10+ college degrees, no pregnancies or jail terms among them

          We were able to do this in the city. It was not without its challenges: our house was burglarized twice; a stray bullet through the window hit the piano in the parlor, and a spent one dented our car; one car was stolen, another was hit and run in front of our house by a drunken A-B junior executive from Olivette, and a third was rear-ended when we had the temerity to stop for a red light at Arsenal & Tower Grove; and we have to put up with the noise, trash and quaint cultural norms of our hoosier neighbors. We handled the education thing by homeschooling our kids & getting by on one income. (And the income was not a great one: providing for a family of 6 on $36k in 1995 was not easy.)We could have cut and run to the suburbs as a result of any of these challenges, as many did, but I’m a city guy who was born & raised in North City, and had no interest in leaving my homeland.

          Ours is not a story of heroic pioneers saving anything. It is about ordinary people making choices and commitments. Sure, the story could have been different. One of those bullets might have found a body, or a burglar could have been armed & stumbled upon us, or a daughter could have been run over while raking leaves in front of our house. Really bad things do happen, but they happen infrequently & can happen anywhere. The families who lived in our house before us witnessed World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. They suffered burglaries, illness, accidents, deaths, and hoosier neighbors. That’s just life.

          Having said all this, I am thrilled that the millennials are moving to StL in large numbers. I enjoy bumping into them on Cherokee Street or at MoKaBe’s. It is fun to see them with their child & dog headed to TGP. They remind me of an earlier self, and give me hope for a better future for this city that I love so much. I do not care who gets credit for saving the city, so long as it is saved. Perhaps the city itself has a soul; a soul that is composed of the millions of people over the past 250 years who lived here, loved here,fought here, and died here. It is this soul which wills it to live, despite the ravages of time (and hoosiers).

          • Ann Wimsatt

            Great post.

  • Colorado

    If St. Louis thinks it’s going to end up more like Denver than Detroit, we need to do what Colorado does! Legalize weed, first of all, to attract young people and use the taxes to improve city schools, to attract families. Second, invest in public transportation! Expand MetroLink and streetcars! We could even use the marijuana taxes to pay for parts of that. It also wouldn’t hurt for St. Louis to have a real liberal arts school in the City. I’ve lost many friends to other cities because we couldn’t offer them the kind of college experience they wanted.

    • Adam

      well, it seems MO is heading pretty quickly toward legalizing marijuana, so there’s that. as far as public transit, St. Louis’ light rail is already more extensive than Denver’s, and our bus system is comparable. there does seem to be less of a bus-riding stigma in Denver though. certainly we should continue to invest, but public transit isn’t why Denver is luring more millennials. agreed about the liberal arts school–we could use one of those and a dedicated art school. having been to Denver a number of times i honestly don’t get the hype, aside from it’s proximity to the mountains.

      • Still crushed that we lost Powell Square, when there were so many plans being bandied about for its reuse as an art school (or the Chouteau’s Landing Art Center) and a Photography Hall of Fame and a business incubator and a…well, you get the point.

        I mean, just look at this beauty in concept, right next to Arch and tell me that wouldn’t attract students:

  • John

    I’m a millennial. I don’t think most of us are going to leave. In 10 or 20 years when we all have kids, we aren’t returning to the suburbs to raise them. Hopefully our kids will stay here, too. We’ll know for sure around 2040-50 or so when those kids are older.

    • Ann Wimsatt

      Manhattan used to be as affordable as STL City. Young Manhattanites had great apartments and never dreamed of leaving. Still, a substantial percentage of Manhattan families left for the burbs when their children reached school age.

      Good schools help but they don’t keep everyone in the city.

      A sea change would be to redefine the move to the burbs as a ten year, temporary migration.

  • Shadrach

    As one who was in my 20s during the 1990s, bought a home in the city in ’95, raised kids and evangelized the city, sticking by it, fighting for it, saying ‘how great it was,’ I feel a little put out and in full-on, grumpy-man voice say, “hey, I was all about the city before you kids we even born!” Literally.

    Now, I’m glad the Millennials are flocking in, and will agree that they are saving the city. We need more. Lot’s more. I like seeing their presence, it adds energy and a vibe desperately needed.

    But, I think another dynamic that has helped the city has been the advent of the digital age. In 1995, when I was living in the city and working in Clayton, I was basically alone and felt like I was single-handedly pumping up the city. I was the only pro-City person many people knew. But, truth is I wasn’t alone, we just couldn’t find a way to connect. (Metropolis was really the first attempt, but with a newborn at home, pubcrawls weren’t on the agenda.)

    The internet has allowed a collective voice for all pro-City people regardless of age/generation. I credit this blog, urbanstl, Steve Patterson’s and others for
    rallying us together, supporting and promoting the city. And what’s great, as Millennials become interested in the City, there are a ready-made, positive platforms like this for them to get plugged into.

    • Ann Wimsatt

      Excellent point about internet savvy Millennials using the internet to drive the fun in STL.

  • dempster holland

    two questions:
    1. how much of the change in 20 to 30 years olds a) is caused by teenagers in
    2000 not moving in 2010 b) is caused by increased out of town students at slu
    and wash u?
    2. What is the change in absolute numbers rather than per cents, esp for last
    ten years?

    • urbanmo

      Between 2000 and 2010, City of St. Louis lost 8.3% of its population, or 28,895 people.

      The City gained 5,577 people in their 20s (a 6.89% increase from 2000), and 13,094 people between the ages of 45-65 (a 5.34% increase) between 2000 and 2010.

      However, St. Louis lost 21,999 (-22.01%) of its residents under the age of 19, and 11,629 (-13.55%) of its residents between the ages of 35 to 44.

      These age groups directly correlate to the years when most people are raising children.

      In other words, give families better educational choices, the city will start growing again, and the Milennials won’t leave!

      • John R

        Right. Leaving aside the policy prescription for now, this is what I was getting at a bit with my comment about overly focusing on attracting young adults as we just can’t rely on getting the numbers we need in a low-growth regional environment. They’ll continue to flock to the city at good rates, but we just don’t have the regional growth to bring in another 20-30K young adults. But if we can do a better job in retaining young families, even if there is still an overall net loss from this key demographic, we have a better chance of really turning the tide.

        If we look at the math, what would have been the result if we would have only lost say 10% of our 35-44 yr. olds (and corresponding % of minors)? I could be wrong, but I believe this is where the future of our city will be won or lost.

      • dempster holland

        Good numbers. Absolute numbers can shed as much light as
        percentage changes. Note that the so-called “silent generation”
        (45 to 65, born 1945 to 1965) averaged 6500 per 10-year group.
        This exceeds the millenium generation of 5577. So now I suppose
        we should say the Silent Generation is saving the city, and we
        should encourage all those social values of the 1940s and 1950s–
        politeness, haircuts, no drugs, etc. Or is that heresy?

        • Alex Ihnen

          Those numbers are not correct.

          • dempster holland

            What are the correct numbers? I quoted urbanmo

          • John R

            I’m eager to know real numbers as well. For one, I’d like to see how many more twenty-somethings we would have needed to get to zero population loss last census. Or how much less of a loss on kids and 35+.

          • urbanmo

            my numbers come from the census. Here is the website I used.

            I took the age groups given for 2000 and 2010 and compared them. The two data sets broke the age groups up differently.

            For instance, one set might have 25-29 and 30 -34 as separate groups, whereas the other might have 25-34 as a single group. In such instances,I just added the set of two groups into one in order to have a uniform comparison.

            Alex, if this approach is incorrect, or this data is misleading, please let me know so I quit citing it. But I just took it straight from the government’s website.

          • John R

            From the source cited by Alex, urbanmos’s numbers are definitely wrong. That site is interesting, btw, for example it shows huge loss of young adults from Saint Louis County. Also, its only county data, so it really isn’t fair to compare Saint Louis City to say Cleveland or Detroit where the city is only a portion of the county. Probably fair to compare to say Indy or Boston as those probably account for 80% or more of their county.

          • John R

            But according to this StL City census report, urbanmo’s numbers are indeed right.


            From this source, by far the biggest increase in both percentage and real numbers was from 55-59 yr. olds! I suspect these are the right #’s but somebody is wrong!

          • Alex Ihnen

            I believe that the issue is “net migration” versus “population change by age group”. That is, tracking those moving in and out versus those who age in place.

          • John R

            I’m confused.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Every county in the St. Louis metro region showed huge gains in 55-64 year olds from 2000 to 2010 (40-50%+ in St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, Lincoln County, and the City). Those “gains” aren’t people moving to STL, or even around STL, they’re Boomers aging in place. Net migration shows who’s coming and going instead of showing population gains for specific age groups that are the product of aging residents.

          • John R

            That makes sense. What seems clear to me though looking at the absolute numbers is that we have to fight just as hard to retain more young families as we do attracting twenty-somethings if we have any shot at gaining population. Either that or move a major university or two to the city.

          • urbanmo

            Just to clarify this statement, my numbers were correct, but they are tracking a different measure than what you were using.

            Also, I would argue both sets of data matter and are revealing for their own purposes.

        • Ann Wimsatt
        • Ann Wimsatt

          1946 to 1964 is the Boomer generation. The Silent Generation is 1925 to 1945. Many of them are living in the ultimate city in the sky.

      • Alex Ihnen

        I think there’s something missing here. The City of St. Louis didn’t net 13,094 45-65 year olds in the past decade. I’d suggest that the net number matters most. While not advocating that any age group be ignored (we should be working hard to retain all and in increasing numbers), only one age group has shown a positive net migration to the city in 60 years.

        • John R

          But apparently the City did net those gains.

          • dempster holland

            Here are the changes noted by the city source:
            age 2000 2010 change
            20=24 26.500 28,800 up 2300
            25-29 28,400 32,000 up 3600

            45-49 23.000 21,600 down 1400
            50-54 18,200 23,100 up 5100
            55-59 13,500 19,900 up 6400
            60=64 11,600 14,700 up 3100

            These are net figures. And each include aging in place
            as well as in and out migration==and the older groups
            have more of their loss caused by deaths than the
            younger groups. Make what you will of these numbers.
            but if any age group deserves credit for saving the
            city, it would have to be the 50 to 64 year olds. And
            I bet a lot of them don’t ride bikes or spend $3 for a
            cup of coffee. Having said that, we still are happy
            about the young folks moving in–it sort of validates
            that there is still life in the old city

          • urbanmo

            exactly! the City is gaining people who don’t have kids. This proves the point that people WANT to live in the city, they just can’t afford to because of the school systems in St. Louis and the rest of urban America. If we can keep those families, the population loss in the City ends.

          • Ann Wimsatt

            Hang on. The new boomer migrants not only ride fancy bikes, they can afford $6 coffee, $100 a month health clubs, $100 meals and $700K condos.

          • dempster holland

            king at the data in the city census, I compare
            each age group in 2000 with the same people who were
            ten years older in 2010. This upholds Alex’s point that
            there was an actual increase in millenials and there
            was an actual decrease in over 50 year olds as they
            became 60 years old.
            age in 2000 age in 2010 change
            10-14 20-24 up 3800
            15-19 25-29 up 7300
            40-44 50-54 down 3500
            45-49 55-59 down 3100
            50-54 60-64 down 3500
            A larger part of the decrease in the older groups could
            be attributed to a higher death rate, and part of the in-
            crease in the younger group could be out of town students
            In absolute numbers, however, it is still true that there
            has been a larger increase in the number of older
            citizens than in the number of younger citizens So,
            young fellow you can ride your bike but stay off my

          • Alex Ihnen

            This is true, but again, the increase in the older age groups is the result of people living in the city getting older and not older people moving into the city.

          • Alex Ihnen

            They are not “net migration” figures – that is, people moving in or out. They are net population figures, which includes large number of people are didn’t move, but did get older.

  • Karin

    In the 90s, a group called Metropolis rallied the 20-29 crowd with the slogan, “The City is back, back the City.” I believe that they made a difference. Personally, I moved to STL from Boston in 1995 at age 26 and am now raising my kids in the City. Certainly, I’ve seen friends migrate west for the schools, but many choose to stay. In no way do I mean to downplay the positive impact of the Millennials, but there’s also positive story out there in many neighborhoods that are quietly and sustainably creating strong, multi-generational communities.

  • RyleyinSTL

    Fix the schools (however that is done?) and you have a chance at keeping millennals. Once kids arrive that always seems to be the deciding factor in packing up and moving west.

    • Ashley Diaz

      I completely agree. I plan to live east of I-170, and west of the Mississippi River, for the remainder of my existence (I’m only 24). In the event that I decide children aren’t a terrible idea, I’d love for the public schools in the city to be an actual option for my theoretical family.

      When my generation starts having children on purpose, I think the state of disrepair of inner city public schools will send my generation right back out to the ‘burbs where we mostly came from, and where the public schools are much better. And that’s not something I want to happen.

      • John

        Schools in the suburbs are already in decline. Meanwhile, the highest rated public school in the state is in Tower Grove. I believe this trend will continue, and when our generation has kids on purpose in a decade or two, we’re going to be saying to our suburban friends, “Why don’t you get out of those old suburbs and come to the big City to send your kid to a good school?”

    • Dani Pizzella

      I completely agree that the schools need to be fixed but disagree that the result of having kids in the current educational situation will send people in my generation out to the suburbs.
      I believe many people will stay but will be less able to contribute to the economic growth of the city.
      I am 25 and a home owner in tower grove east. The majority of my friends are in similar situations. When we talk about having kids (or have kids) and school options we talk about private schools. Depending on the school and the number of kids, this is thousands of dollars a year that people are spending on schooling for their children. This prevents or hinders the same people from bettering their communities. If we didn’t have to pay for schooling, that same money could be spent on opening businesses, rehabbing buildings, supporting local business and completing home improvements. If we didn’t have to work so much to afford acceptable schools, we would have more time to be involved in our communities, volunteer, plant flowers and attend community meetings.

      • onecity

        School performance is nothing more than demographics. The reason many public schools suck is because many of the parents of the kids
        currently in them don’t read to their kids, don’t provide a stable home environment, and don’t model or demand good behavior. If you want public schools to improve, the only thing that will make it happen – assuming you have middle class values – is if you and your friends, and your friends’ friends, send all your kids to the public schools, are aggressive in the parent-teacher organisations, and demand excellence and accountability. Overflow the schools with
        good families, and the schools will be good. It really is that simple.

        • onecity

          What I’m saying is, if you live in a good neighborhood, but all the middle class send their kids to private schools, don’t be surprised when the schools suck. You must take ownership of the schools. It’s the only way forward from here.

          • matimal

            Private schools are schools. They count and are part of the total calculation of families in selecting a neighborhood.

          • onecity

            I guess. But we all pay taxes to support public schools. About time folks started using them. It’s kind of stupid to pay for the same thing twice.

    • matimal

      How do we know when the schools are “fixed”? What measures do we use? How have schools changed in recent years? What are the politics of schools that we can get involved in? Schools don’t just happen, they are created.

    • onecity

      School performance is nothing more than demographics. The reason
      many public schools suck is because many of the parents of the kids
      in them don’t read to their kids, don’t provide a stable home
      environment, and don’t model or demand good behavior. If you want
      public schools to improve, the only thing that will make it happen –
      assuming you have middle class values – is if you and your friends, and
      your friends’ friends, send all your kids to the public schools, are
      aggressive in the parent-teacher organisations, and demand excellence
      and accountability. Overflow the schools with
      good families, and the schools will be good. It really is that simple.

      • Roger Mexico

        A new charter school can provide an option to many middle
        class parents who wouldn’t consider SLPS (except maybe the gifted programs). It’s quite difficult to attract significant numbers of middle class kids to an existing school that already has high numbers of free/reduced lunch kids and lower test scores (along the lines of your take-over-the-school scenario). A new charter school with a charismatic principal can set a new tone and sell middle-class parents on their vision (e.g. City Garden), whereas an existing public school nearby (e.g. like Adams Elementary) would have a hard time doing that even with a nice
        new building. GSA has had similar success at attracting more middle class kids.

        • onecity

          The buildings don’t matter. The teachers don’t matter. The families of the kids in the schools, and how they raise their kids, are the *only* thing that matters. It really is that simple. The best teacher in the world will have a marginal impact on students that come from neglect. A student from a nurturing home will probably do well in a bad school.

          • Roger Mexico

            That’s a bit of an oversimplification and there is some evidence to the contrary. For example studies of KIPP charter schools (by Mathematica Policy Research) demonstrates that those charters are achieving better results with their poor students than for comparable students left in the host school districts.

    • Don

      you are exactly right and charter schools are the only hope. With a few rare exceptions the city’s public schools are hopelessly broken and I don’t say this lightly — but they are a lost cause.

      The city’s future is dependent upon building a community that will retain millennals and this requires good (charter) schools, a public transportation plan that is sensible and efficient, open up our roads to bikes, etc.

      • onecity

        Charters are not the solution. The solution is enrolling children from good families in neighborhood schools. There are great neighborhoods that by their demographics should have great public schools in them, but don’t, precisely because the neighborhood doesn’t use them. And you know what? If the residents of the nabes that have arrived – for instance in Tower Grove, CWE, etc sent their kids to the neighborhood schools, and invested their time and energy just as much as they do in the private and charter schools they currently use, those would be amazing, polyglot neighborhood schools. That is a fact.

      • Alex Ihnen

        (see above) The issue isn’t really about retaining Millennials. They will leave – young generations leave virtually every urban center in America. The issue is attracting more of the next generation.

    • Alex Ihnen

      What the numbers show, in my opinion, is that the issue is less about keeping Millennials, than it is about attracting 20-29 year olds. The more come, the more stay. Yes, it would be great is more of all age groups stay, but St. Louis is losing out to Boston and Denver and San Francisco, etc. because it’s not attracting enough Millennials.

      • John R

        Our problem largely is a jobs problem and the reason why we are not attracting as many 20-29 year olds as San Fran, Denver, etc.. If we believe we will continue to be a slow growth region, then wouldn’t it be a mistake to neglect public policies attempting to retain younger families at a greater rate than present and instead have an overwhelming focus on attracting the young? I guess the question is what are the public policy implications here?

        • Alex Ihnen

          No reason to neglect public policies attempting to retain young families, but we need to know that virtually every comparable city loses young families. That is, no urban center has “solved” that issue. What other cities have done is figured out how to attract more young people – who then result in more people of older generations staying. Let’s do that.

          • Ann Wimsatt

            Cities are not that hospitable for young families. All busy cities lose young families because even the best city schools cannot offer the experience of a suburban school. City schools necessitate compromises– parents have to accept a lack of sports fields or a much higher security environment. And in Manhattan, for example, a youngster really needs an adult by their side until they are 12 years old. That’s a big compromise for a sense of independence for a child.

            The artists (and architects) of the Boomer generation were the first ‘yuppies’ to seek out dense urban environments in significant numbers. A large percentage of them moved to the suburbs to raise their primary school age children. Some of them are moving back to the city. Up until now, Americans viewed migration as a one way, permanent deal. But that’s really a Silent Generation thing. They moved to the suburbs and stayed in those homes until they went to assisted living.

            What if large segments of the population went out to the suburbs for the twelve years their kids needed leafy schools and then moved back to the city? Once again, the boomers may be the canary in that trend because a notable percentage of Empty Nest Boomers are moving into dense urban areas.

          • John R

            Saint Louis City is not quite inhospitable to raising families with children. Comparing nabes like Shaw or Saint Louis Hills to Manhattan is silly. This writing off of families is harmful and wrong.

          • Ann Wimsatt

            We disagree John R.. My opinions are opinions, they are not silly, harmful or wrong. St Louis Hills may be the exception but the majority of families living in the city do not let their children walk freely to busy public places like Maryland Plaza, Grand Avenue, Kingshighway or even Forest Park. Very few children go to the zoo by themselves–even though quite a few are within walking distance. Lots of children walk freely along Wydown, on the other hand.

            That’s okay. Increased security is part of the compromise of living in a dense city and in that way, STL City life is similar to Manhattan.

            This reality is the point that Alex Ihnen makes when he argues that saving SLPS is not necessarily tied to a revitalization of ST Louis. It’s a valid point. The public schools in Manhattan have improved somewhat, but many Manhattan parents send their children to private and parochial schools.

          • dempster holland

            In the 1940s and 50s, we kids in the west end walked
            or rode bikes by ourselves everywhere. And as to persons
            sending their kids to non-public schools, that is done for
            social and religious reasons and would be done whatever
            the goodness of the public schools

          • John R

            Count our family as just one of surely many who thinks living in this great city is a pleasure and think your comment that it is inhospitable is wrong and borderline offensive. But maybe its just me! I also don’t get your comment about kids roaming free….I see a lot of tweens/teens around my nabe; as for younger ones there aren’t a whole lot of places anywhere in urban areas where they are walking or biking freely outside these days. Maybe Wydown is an exception and good for them if so.

          • Roger Mexico

            Much of this is a societal change in what is acceptable as a parent. I know very many suburban parents who don’t let younger children roam without close observation because they’ve been freaked out by one dateline story or another. It’s just no longer socially acceptable to take such minor risks. Also the largest risk to young children (cars) are distributed pretty evenly between city and suburban areas.

          • Ann Wimsatt

            It’s true that the 1-5s are always closely supervised and the teens have more freedom in either location. It’s the 5 to 12s that have more freedom in the suburbs and when faced with that reality in the city, many parents choose to give their children a suburban primary school experience.

          • John R

            5 to 12 yr. olds have substantial freedom out in the burbs? Maybe a bit more for 10-12 yr. olds but highly doubtful for younger ones. Can you give solid examples cause I don’t buy it.

          • Alex Ihnen

            I’ll say from experience that where I lived in the City (The Grove) was/is certainly less hospitable to children than where I am now (U-City near Clayton). And I’m not talking about schools. No one should be written off, but let’s be aware and honest about the challenges.

          • John R

            Absolutely. And, yes, FPSE is not as family-strong as say Tower Grove South. Walking to the ice cream parlor or amazing park, etc. and with no reasonable safety fears is just part of the routine. Throw in a bit of a backyard and and tree-lined streets and it is a little bit of heaven. Not for everyone and most will still probably feel more at ease in suburbs but it is anything but inhospitable where we live. Results may vary by neighborhood!

          • John R

            I just checked out the website of your new sponsor, Grove Properties. Cool to see Wash U/BJC has the $8,500 incentive for home-buying in the Grove. GP has a gorgeous cutie pie remodel that you can get for under $110K and laugh at the Aventura suckers… if security is a concern you could probably buy an armed guard with the savings! Anyway, it will be interesting to see what the home values are there in 5 years. If you kept your old place as a rental that was probably a solid investment.

    • dempster holland

      One often-ignored aspect of educational change in the city is the
      relative decline of parochial schools. Traditionally, these probably
      educated at least one-third of the city’s children. But they depended
      on a key factor–the cheap labor of the various orders of Catholic
      sisters and nuns. As their numbers rapidly diminished starting
      in the 1960s, the cost of parochial schools went up and more
      Catholics sent their kids to public schools, starting a downward spiral.
      The parochial parish also fostered a strong sense of community–
      most Catholics would describe themselves as being from a parish
      rather than a neighbohood (as in “Holy Family”, not “Tower Grove

      • RyleyinSTL

        Good. God and education mix like oil and water. If kids have any chance of making it they need an evidenced based education.

        • dempster holland

          many a child educated in Catholic schools went on to
          fine scientific careers

        • samizdat

          The Catholic schools I attended all taught the most modern theories in science, including that proposed by Darwin. God was presented as a way by which young people could learn moral and ethical values in a secular society, and never interfered with the basic tenets of science beyond the moral and ethical implications of their application.

          (I’m an atheist now, and the idea that only religion can teach us moral and ethical values is repugnant to me. Having said that, the RCC and my own family provided a fairly good primer on what it means to be a decent and humble human being; I’ve been filling in the blanks ever since).

      • Roger Mexico

        While unfortunate for some of these high-quality parochial schools, this has been driven by availability of taxpayer-funded and acceptable alternatives (so not necessarily a net negative). For example Gateway Science (charter school) has attracted a pretty significant number of kids that used to attend nearby parochial schools.

  • brian

    I have no problem with giving the Millennials the credit they deserve for helping to revive the city. They deserve a ton of praise. It is just that the Millennials don’t want to give any credit to those that came before them or more importantly to those that decided to never leave the city even when they could have.

    Statements like “No single generation “saves” a city, but Millennials are having a greater positive impact on the population of the City of St. Louis than any generation in several generations.” , give no credit to those that never left the city. Those people are the ones that actually saved the city and stopped it from becoming the next Detroit. The people that decided they didn’t what to take part in white flight. The Millennials seem to have contempt for these people.

    • grumpasaurus

      Right or wrong, I think it’s pretty normal for one younger generation to disrespect an older generation.

    • Alex Ihnen

      The statement “No single generation ‘saves’ a city, but Millennials are having a greater positive impact on the population of the City of St. Louis than any generation in several generations,” is a) factual, and b) exactly meant to give credit to other and point out that it takes everyone – that Millennials aren’t doing it all themselves.

      • brian

        Wouldn’t the generation of people with kid’s and good jobs that stuck it out in the city throughout 80’s and 90’s be the group of people that had the most positive impact on the city’s population and stopped it from becoming another Detroit? You know that generation of people in south and southwest city that decided not to join white flight to the burbs. If wasn’t for that generation there would be nothing for the Millennials to return to. The city would have had no tax base for the last 3 decades and would have turned into a complete wasteland as their would have been no money to pay for city services.

        Millennials deserve a ton of credit for the changing momentum in the city, but cities can not survive without long term residents with good jobs willing to raise families in them. The kind of people that don’t abandon the city when it isn’t as trendy to live in them.

        • Speaking only from anecdotal family history (a firefighter Grandpa who moved his family to Blvd. Heights from, I think, Dolman St.) …

          …A large reason that far south City didn’t empty out is because that’s where all the firemen and police officers moved to, due to the City’s residency requirement. Meaning, they got as far away as they could while still retaining residency. 🙂

          Now I definitely don’t have a problem with this, as the relative safety and quality of life has been retained for multiple generations there. And its not a situation unique to STL (look at Chicago’s far NW and SW neighborhoods), but it’s definitely (probably?) a reason.

          I really do lament that the City relaxed its residency requirement for City employees. If you’re going to “officially” represent the City, you should have to (I mean “get to”!) live in it.