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Sweet spot

If the Rochester area had a dime for each time over the last two decades someone bemoaned its rate of outmigration, we’d all be rich, indeed.

But what if the conventional wisdom about Rochester these days is wrong? Would we believe it?

Those questions are prompted by some new analyses of recent census numbers. Writing on the New Geography website last week, Wendell Cox said data from 2010 to 2015 show a clear trend: Americans are moving to midsized metropolitan areas, those with a population of 250,000 to 5 million.

Who is losing population now? According to Mr. Cox, it’s the largest metro areas and the smaller locales with fewer than 250,000 residents. In fact, the trend has become more pronounced in the last few years.

And within the midsize group, the fastest-growing segment is the middle: metro areas with 1 million (like Rochester) to 2.5 million inhabitants.

On a percentage basis, the midsize metros grew an average of 0.21 percent from 2010 to 2015. The Rochester area’s growth rate was almost identical.

But it’s still losing young people at an alarming rate, right?

Not if recent number-crunching by Texas-based Headlight Data is correct. It studied data released by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and found that among metro areas with more than 1 million people, Rochester had the biggest percentage increase of millennials from 2009 to 2014.

It’s also true that Rochester has fewer millennials than most of these metros as a percentage of the total population. Still, no one is moving in the right direction more rapidly.

Mr. Cox is careful to note that the 2010-2015 trend in favor of midsize metros could be an aberration. Only time will tell if that’s the case.

Let’s hazard a guess: Americans may be increasingly drawn to places where costs are lower than in New York City or Los Angeles, and job opportunities and quality of life are greater than in many isolated small towns.

Think of it as the sweet spot. That’s how it seems to others, anyway.

4/15/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected]

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