Northeast Ohio’s Millennial Brain Gain

As cities and regions across the nation compete for skilled talent, Northeast Ohio is experiencing a noticeable transformation as millennials progressively flock to Cleveland’s urban core. In what has been termed the “fifth migration,” Cleveland, like many other mid-sized cities, is beginning to see an influx of young talent moving to vibrant and growing urban centers. This is an encouraging trend for the city and all of Northeast Ohio as the region seeks to attract needed talent to help fuel our economy in the decades to come.

To further illustrate this emerging trend, Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs recently completed a study highlighting Cleveland’s own “brain gain” in the years following the Great Recession. The study looked at Cleveland’s millennial population from 2000 – 2013, tracking those with at least a bachelor’s degree. In looking only at the 2011 – 2013 timeframe (the years immediately following the Great Recession), the region gained 7,000 millennials with a college degree, tying Seattle and Miami for eighth in the nation in the percent gain of college-degreed young adults. 

In addition to looking at millennials with bachelor’s degrees, the study also examined those with advanced degrees, finding that Northeast Ohio has a high concentration of highly educated young professionals. The study showed that in 2010, 14.9 percent of Cleveland workers aged 24 to 34 had an advanced degree; by 2013, this number climbed to 15.9 percent. When compared to the nation’s 40 largest metros, the Cleveland area ranked eighth in the nation in terms of having the highest percentage of young people with advanced degrees.

So what does all of this mean? In sum, it means that Northeast Ohio is beginning to transform itself into a knowledge-based economy, anchored by highly educated professionals. Progressively, as the Cleveland State study supports, Northeast Ohio is becoming an attractive destination for young, highly skilled talent. This gradual transformation is changing the complexion of Northeast Ohio’s workforce, producing more knowledge-based jobs as opposed to skill-based positions. As Northeast Ohio attracts more knowledge-based talent, it will continue to see growth in areas like healthcare, which has already experienced a significant boost.

To see further proof of this emerging trend, one need only look at the influx of young people moving to Downtown Cleveland. In fact, the number of 25- to 34-year-olds living in Downtown Cleveland has increased by 76 percent from 2000 – 2012. Many are attracted to the area for its low-cost of living as well as the sense of being a “big fish in a small pond.” While a number of factors contribute to this trend, progressively millennials are finding that Northeast Ohio offers what other major cities cannot – an affordable work/life balance with the ability to make an impact, professionally and in the community.

As Northeast Ohio continues to draw highly skilled, young talent to its footprint, it hopes to reap the economic benefits as well. Downtown Cleveland has already begun to see the rewards in terms of Downtown residential occupancy, with rates at 97.5 percent according to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. The high demand for Downtown living has spurred additional apartment development as it is projected that Downtown’s population will grow to 23,000 by 2020.

Ultimately, as the region gradually shifts to a knowledge-based economy, Northeast Ohio is experiencing a noticeable “brain gain” that has can be seen in the number of highly educated young professionals putting down roots in Cleveland’s core. This is a very encouraging trend as the region looks to compete for needed talent and remain economically competitive. While no one can predict the future, Northeast Ohio has created a solid foundation to build upon in the years and decades to come.

Source: Cleveland State University