Portland's Unclear Future as a Young Retirement Community

Portland's over-educated, under-employed population is largely a semi-retired community of young adults, according to some. But with rising housing prices and overall cost of living, it is unclear how Portland will retain these characteristics.

2 minute read

September 18, 2014, 8:00 AM PDT

By Maayan Dembo @DJ_Mayjahn


As Claire Cain Miller writes for a recent piece in the New York Times Magazine, Portland's future as an urban utopia for kombucha brewers, kale growers, and households living off barista tips is hazy. The city has a high amount of educated residents, and unlike corporate nearby cities like San Francisco or Seattle, Portland offers few high-level employment opportunities for them, leading many young people to enter semi-retirement.

According to a July report by the Oregon Employment Department, the state is concerned with low personal income levels, coupled with its employment-to-population ratio. As Miller highlights, "the average income of Oregonians in recent years 'may have been a 'victim' of the state’s attractiveness, and a resulting population influx' by new residents who don’t earn much, the report said."

Indeed, Aaron Renn, urban-affairs analyst who writes for the Urbanophile blog, shared that "personal income per capita in [Portland] grew by a mere 31 percent between 2000 and 2012, slower than 42 other cities, including Grand Rapids, Mich., and Rochester." Despite these low metrics, the population of Portland keeps growing, with new residents attracted to its quality of life. Indeed, "David Albouy, an economics professor at the University of Illinois, has created a metric, the sacrifice measure, which essentially charts how poor a person is willing to be in order to live in a particular city. Portland, he discovered, is near the top of the list." People are moving to Portland not to kickstart their careers, but rather to enjoy the city's unique nature.

With concerns over rising housing prices, many of Portland's semi-retired youth may soon be priced out and forced to move to cheaper pastures.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 in The New York Times Magazine

Rendering of electric scooters, electric cars, light rail train, and apartments in background.

Arizona’s ‘Car-Free’ Community Takes Shape

Culdesac Tempe has been welcoming residents since last year.

February 14, 2024 - The Cool Down

Aerial view of suburban sprawl with large single-family homes near Dallas, Texas.

The Changing Shape of American Suburbs

Housing costs and availability are pushing more American households, including young families, to suburbs and exurbs — and they’re demanding changes.

February 13, 2024 - Business Insider

Freeway toll booth with "Stop" and "Pay Toll" signs

Clearer Thinking About Transportation Pricing

It’s time to reform transportation pricing to reduce traffic congestion, crashes, and pollution, and improve non-auto travel options. Raise my prices, please!

February 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

Aerial view of housing and freeway in Cupertino, California.

Proposal Would Link Highway Funding to Zoning

Experts argue that zoning, housing, and transportation policy are intimately linked.

58 minutes ago - Federation of American Scientists

Close-up of old, rusted water pipe leaking at joint.

White House Announces $5.8 Billion in Water Infrastructure Funding

The new funds add to the effort to replace aging infrastructure and lead pipes.

February 21 - ABC News

White and blue double-decker bus in Seattle, Washington.

Seattle to Introduce Electric Buses With Wireless Charging

In-ground induction chargers will reduce the cost of the charging network.

February 21 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

The Walkable City

Harvard GSD Executive Education

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.