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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.
September 18, 2014, 8am PDT | Maayan Dembo | @DJ_Mayjahn
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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.

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