Population loss from year-to-year and what elder baby boomers will do

Yahoo has a pop-up story on the 10 states that are losing population this year. Whenever a story like this comes up for Los Angeles losing population, the urban blogosphere usually has some denizens that conclude that the figures reflect how urban form driving the change, and urban form is rewarding New York and punishing Los Angeles with population loss/gains.

So this year’s story is one the reasons why you can’t judge larger migration patterns based on single-year data. This year, New York is taking its lumps. Why? It’s hard telling in any given year, but certainly the recession* isn’t helping any of the major urban employment centers (including LA where the employment numbers, though looking up,have been dismal.)

The arguments given for why these places lost population are pretty standard; job growth in NY is not able to compensate for the costs of living there, and migrating elders to the south and southwest.

Lord knows, I don’t take this reporting terribly seriously (some percentage losses are tiny population losses), but elder downsizing is one of the big bets that the New Urbanists and Smart Growth folks have banked on. I am less convinced, and I’ve yet to see studies that really capture the full range of housing/migration possibilities available to elders. For instance, it may well be true that elders move and downsize, but moving from suburb to downtown can take on any number of iterations–such as moving from Brooklyn to Charlotte, NC or Miami, FL. Or from Manhattan to Miami.

And we really have nothing like the Boomer generation in our past trends. They have market power that previous generations have not had. They could, for example, completely redefine markets so that home upkeep services are supplied in ways that allow for all manner of aging in place.

See what I mean? The possibilities for what people do are a lot more diverse than we might predict.

*Am I supposed to be saying that the recession is over now? I always forget.