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Quality of Place and Migration

People vote with their feet. The regions with the best retention should be the regions with the best quality of place.
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(Photo: gary yim/Shutterstock)

(Photo: gary yim/Shutterstock)

On June 5th, I gave a keynote address at the "Symposium on Small Towns." My main objective was to encourage the audience to think about migration in a different way, “It is not place failure. It is not a negative outcome. It is one person connecting two places.

Rural communities worry about residents leaving. Urban communities worry about residents leaving. All places understand brain drain as a symptom of shortcomings. If your hometown was Creative Class cool, no one would move to Austin.

First in line to prey upon this anxiety are real estate developers. Why would any prodigal daughter or son leave walkable (and affordable) Long Island?

Residents in the so-called "Millennial" group, ages 20-34, "are not happy with their overall life on Long Island," citing as obstacles "the lack of housing options and high housing costs" as well as a dearth of housing "in walkable communities with public transportation," the report says.

Read the report for yourself here (PDF). Make of the results what you will. I am surprised to see in Newsday a critique of the research methodology:

"It's a sample of people who he was able to reach on social media and who decided to respond to him," said John Logan, a sociology professor at Brown University and a former Stony Brook University professor, who has done census data analyses of communities across the nation, including Long Island, for Brown's US2010 Project.

"It's a very self-selected sample," said Logan, who had not read the report but was responding to a reporter's description.

Logan, however, said of Cantor's correlation and regression, or predictive, analysis: "We can have more confidence in those associations even when the sample is not a random sample" if a "strong pattern" emerged. Cantor's findings about young people who consider leaving the Island is "plausible," he said, and consistent with a general pattern. Cantor conceded Logan's point about the survey not being random, adding he set a "high standard" on his analysis at a 99 percent confidence level to toss "fringe" social media responses.

By "general pattern" did Logan mean national? Are Long Island Millennials representative of a local attitude or a national trend? That's a bridge too far for Cantor's study, robust sample or not.

If the concern is about retaining young adults, then we should be looking at places that do a good job of retaining young adults. People vote with their feet. The regions with the best retention should be the regions with the best quality of place. I bet Long Island's retention rate is better than Brooklyn's.