Young Americans who flocked to the country’s biggest metro areas to build careers are finding it harder to leave as places elsewhere that many of them find more desirable for raising families do not offer well-paying jobs.

From 2004 to 2007, The Wall Street Journal reports, “an average of about 50,000 adults aged 25 to 34 left both the New York and Los Angeles metro areas annually, after accounting for new arrivals.” After the recession, “fewer than 23,000 young adults left New York annually between 2010 and 2013. Only about 12,000 left Los Angeles — a drop of nearly 80% from before the recession.” And “Chicago’s departures dropped about 60%.”

William Frey, a demographer at The Brookings Institution — which helped crunch the numbers — said, “Young adults who moved to the three cities for school, internships or early jobs—or simply because it seemed cool—may now be stuck.”

Increased financial insecurity certainly plays a role. Median earnings for full-time U.S. workers between ages 18 and 34 have called nearly 10 percent since 2000 (after adjusting for inflation) to below 1980s levels, the Journal reports.

The economy suffers too. “If younger people move less, some could get stuck in jobs that aren’t good matches for them, reducing the economy’s productivity,” the paper continues. “That could make the labor force less flexible and less able to compete internationally in an era of rapid technological change and globalization.”

Columbia University theater graduate Amira Nader, 31, wants to move to New Orleans, but a student debt bill of $190,000 and a lack of jobs in that city mean she doesn’t feel secure about leaving New York. New York, she says, is “crowded, expensive. Everything cool is closing.” She adds, “I want a house, I want a dog, I want a room for all my records.… I don’t want to be an old lady here.”

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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