"Nowhere in California is immune to recession, but the oldest areas are proving most resistant. Of the ten counties with the lowest unemployment rates, nine, including Santa Barbara, contain an above-average proportion of people aged 65 or older. Youthful Los Angeles has shed almost a quarter-of-a-million jobs in the past year. Slightly older San Diego has lost a few thousand, while considerably older San Francisco has lost none.
Santa Barbara has watched all this from the sidelines. In this slow-growth stronghold, anything other than a glacial pace of development is anathema. Mr Cushman says that only one block of flats for rent has been built in the region in the past 30 years. And some want to curtail growth further. Health care is the only private-sector industry in California that accounted for job growth in 2008. Here, too, places benefit from having a fairly old population.
In the past ten years, obedient to the findings of urban sociologists, American cities have tripped over themselves vying for young, creative people. They have revitalised downtowns and sponsored gay-pride parades. They might have been better off building retirement homes."