Losing Their Allure

There just seems to be a lot of doubt about the future of major metropolitan cities. That is understandable given that most of the pandemic deaths occur there. Will this result in more of a leveling of the population across America? That is what this post is all about.

The country’s three largest metropolitan areas, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, all lost population in the past several years, according to an analysis by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Even slightly smaller metro areas, like Houston, Washington, D.C., and Miami grew more slowly than before. In all, growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas fell by nearly half over the course of the past decade, Mr. Frey found.

New York Times

I know many still have an allure to giant urban centers. When I went on business trips to New York City I was frequently asked what there is to do in the Midwest? To many there, I lived in a “cornfield with lights”. When I said “Why do you say that?” the most often response was that you don’t have Broadway plays or the ocean or a huge pick of restaurants to choose from. They just don’t seem to understand the those things which they consider important are just not for us.

It is interesting to see that most major metropolitan areas are losing population even before the pandemic. Since the U.S. population is still increasing that has to mean that more of us are choosing smaller towns (meaning 100k or less) as our life choice. If I believe the stories I expect that many of those choosing to forego major urban areas are millennials or later generations. They just seem to put more emphasis on the quality of their lives than on their level in the corporate bureaucracy.

It also seems pretty obvious now that many are choosing to intersperse their lives with a more healthy combination of work/leisure. The gig economy allows and maybe even encourages that practice. I still remember my late night discussions with Sam, short for Samantha, who was my ICU nurse after my brain surgery in 2017. She was a gig worker even before that was a term. She just liked the idea of living all around the country. Every year or so she would take a couple of months vacation and then move to another part of the country to work in a different hospital. She loved her life. I think some of the others in younger generations are taking up her example. Good for them.

Getting back to the main theme of this post, I think one of the reasons for not choosing major urban centers is related to the cost-of-living there. If you live in NYC you are likely to pay almost three thousand bucks a month for a 400 sq. ft. apartment, along with very high utility bills and insurance rates. That same $3,000 or so would get you a house six times the size in 95% of the country. But, I think most with the “Sam” attitude don’t really put much priority on their abode size or keeping up with the neighbors. It’s about the quality of life that counts for them. I salute them for that.