Area just a stop for many educated singles

Sunday, November 23, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:31 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

More young, educated single people left the Columbia area than moved in during the five-year period that ended in 2000, according to recently released U.S. Census data.

In its report, the Census Bureau suggests that people 25 to 39 years old and single who have at least one bachelor’s degree are important to an area’s economy because they’re viewed as “human capital” that can foster economic growth.

Boone County, including Columbia, experienced a net loss of 2,631 people in this coveted category between 1995 and 2000, with 4,818 leaving the area and 2,187 moving in.

Of the 276 metropolitian areas in the Census study, Columbia was among 199 areas that lost people in that category. The same trend was evident in other cities with major colleges, including Lexington, Ky., Madison, Wis., and Lincoln, Neb.

Although there was a net loss of young, single college graduates in Boone County, the area ranked eighth in terms of its percentage of people in this category among the total population.

Only 77 of the areas in the study showed a net gain or positive migration rate of single, college-educated adults age 25 to 39. The top five were Naples, Fla.; Las Vegas; the Charlotte area in the Carolinas; Atlanta; and Portland-Salem, Ore. The lowest-ranking city was Bryan-College Station, Texas.

Daryl Hobbs, senior research associate at the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis at MU, said large metro areas such as New York City are more likely to attract and keep young immigrants. This group of people is attracted to Columbia, Hobbs said, in large measure for graduate training at colleges and hospitals. But they often leave the area after completing their education, he said.

Annie Yang, an MU doctoral student in the communications department, has come and gone from Columbia in the past 10 years. Yang came to MU 10 years ago, then went to two other universities to finish her bachelor’s degree. She returned to MU three months ago for doctoral study, but she said job opportunities will probably drive her to move again after she gets her degree.

“I do not know if Columbia will be my final destination,” Yang said.

“After I finish my study here, I will probably go to wherever I am offered a job.”

Mobility is another characteristic of single, young people with an education. It’s not unusual for this group of people to return to their hometowns after they graduate, Hobbs said. Likewise, international students in this category often return to their home countries.

Although there was a net loss of young, single college graudates between 1995 and 2000 in the Columbia area, figures from 2000 to 2002 show an overall increase of people between the ages of 25 and 34. Those newcomers made up 2,126 of the total population growth of 3,418 in Boone County during that two-year period.

“Columbia is not losing young people,” Hobbs said, noting that the Census report on migration patterns between 1995 and 2000 is focused on a very small slice of the demographic pie.

MU graduate Edie Anderson moved to Columbia from Blue Springs in early August to be closer to her family. But Anderson also moved here because she has a son and the schools offer him what she considers good academic sports and extracurricular opportunities.

“Columbia has a lot to offer,” said Anderson, a speech langage pathologist at Gentry Middle School, noting the collegiate setting along with a good assortment of retailers and other businesses.

Other factors that make Columbia attractive to people of all ages include its health-care system and high liveability rankings by magazines, Hobbs said. Educated young people are particularly drawn by colleges and opportunities for professional training, he said.

Census statistics for Boone County show that 41.8 percent of employees 16 years and older worked in management and professional occupations compared to a national average of 33.6 percent. The top three non-farm employment sectors in 2001 were government and university, and trade and retail, according to state labor statistics.

Rex Campbell, professor of rural sociology at MU, said the inmigration trend in Columbia is by no means limited to a certain age group.

“People moving in are diverse groups,” Campbell said. “There are significant numbers of old people moving in for retirement and young families moving here, taking advantages of job opportunities.”

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