You're Moving to Austin, Texas, and Here's Why
Major American cities are losing people in droves, but rural America is also dying... so where does everyone go? We break down the cities of tomorrow. These economical, political, and cultural epicenters have us all rethinking our future.
Written by Andrew Menjivar
January 22, 2020
Some of us live in a small farm town of 2000 people in rural country. Some live in the suburbs of major metropolitan areas, and some may even sit on their highly congested thrones of the inner city itself. Some of us will want to leave, some will want to stay, but here’s the truth: We’re all moving. Rural America is dying. According to CityLab, a population density tracking company, since 2008, 99% of growth in the US has occurred in metropolitan counties or counties adjacent to metropolitan ones. Conversely, almost all rural counties suffered population decline, averaging between -5.6% and -9.7%, with some of the highest being 33.9% in Concho, TX, 35.2% in Latimer, OK, and 38.9% in Boone, WV. Rural America is dying.
However, population decline is not solely a rural America problem, major urban areas are experiencing population drought, mostly because of crime. According to a list by Forbes ranking the 10 most dangerous cities in the US in 2019, only 3 counties/cities on the list had a population of under 350,000: Birmingham, Buffalo, and Stockton, all of which still have a population well over 200,000. However, high crime isn’t the only thing forcing out people and businesses, it’s the expensive costs of living and decline of manufacturing in the US. While some cities have seen influxes of people and businesses the past two decades, New York City and Houston being two major examples, most cities of the 53 major metropolitan areas in the US have experienced losses, such as San Francisco, Cleveland, and Detroit, mostly due to manufacturing businesses closing their doors and migrating to other countries and smaller startups and local businesses fleeing to cheaper real estate. For example, St. Louis and Baltimore experienced the highest population and business losses according to a report by CBS, losing over 1.1% of the total population in less than a year, with cities such as Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit, and Buffalo following closely behind, all above .5% in the past year. High crime rates, higher cost of living, and fleeting businesses across almost all major cities in the United States is driving out people in droves, so where do they go? Where can we go if rural America is dying and urban America isn’t safe or affordable to live in? The answer: Little big cities.
A concept almost unfamiliar to us. We often think about America in two sets, rural and urban. Little farm towns and sprawling metros. But that’s not where the future is heading. It’s leading us to places with the comforts of both. Places where we can feel open and free but also secure and entertained. The shift from cities focusing on manufacturing and business to cities focusing on services like education and healthcare is rippling throughout America, and our generation is here to ride the wave.
Now the most important question we’re all thinking, how do these stats and major economic shifts affect me? Well if you’re anything like me, you’ll be wondering where you’ll be living in the next few years, maybe moving after college, maybe after that first internship or job, or maybe just gearing up for a big move in your life. Whatever the case may be, the most important thing is to know where you should be moving, and why you should be moving there. The greatest example is Austin, Texas. The Lone Star State capital is not only known for its long history and the University of Texas, but in the more recent decade been known for its booming population, businesses, and downtown center. Austin is a city based on classical Texan culture, the more land you have the more powerful you can be in the community. Similar to other Texan cities such as Houston and San Antonio, Austin has loose zoning laws (Houston actually has no zoning laws), meaning that many people are able to buy large plots of land, construct large, magnificent homes, and most importantly, live right next to the city center. However, unlike Houston and San Antonio, Austin does focus its downtown center on entertainment and services over business and corporations. Known for its bars and nightlife, Austin has consistently been considered one of the busiest and most entertaining cities to visit in the United States, simply due to what the city provides. Its nightlife is unmatched compared to other small and large cities, being known as “The Live Music Capital of America” for its abundance of performers and musicians all across the metro. However, having fun isn’t the only important thing in our lives. Jobs have become increasingly abundant in central Texas, with major companies such as Amazon, Google, Dell, and IBM establishing major hubs there as well as businesses like Whole Foods and Harden Healthcare claiming Austin as their headquarters. With all these features and many more, it’s no surprise that Austin has been ranked #1 on US News’ annual Best Places to Live list of 2019. A bustling, thriving city with good jobs, a plethora of services, entertainment galore, and large living spaces makes Austin a top contender for the city of the future.
But what if you don’t want to live in Texas? What if you still want to stay close to family? What if you like the area or state you’re in? These are questions millions of young Americans ask themselves before big moves, and they’re all completely reasonable. Luckily, Austin isn’t the only “City of the Future”, but many around the country are challenging neighboring long standing cities as the new major metro of the area.
The Midwest, a place known for wide open plains, a history of farming, agricultural towns, and of course sprawling cities reaching for the heavens. But what if there was more in this great northern grassland? Well with the modernization of architecture and city planning, once old, run-down cities are creating their own revival. Gone are the days of Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, and St. Louis being the metropolises of the North. Welcome to the revival of the Midwest. Ushering in this new-age idea of urban planning, once smaller urban centers such as Madison, Wisconsin, Des Moines, Iowa, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Grand Rapids, Michigan have grown exponentially. Waves of young adults, often in mid to late 20s, have been migrating to these new areas for their explosion on the job scene, with major companies in once large cities opting for smaller areas with lower costs of living and nicer facilities. However, the Midwest isn’t the only place in the country with similar explosions. All across America in locations we never thought would see the booms they are seeing now have grown. The South and West are our new frontier. The Northeast is tight, southern California is overcrowded, and the old cities are dying. Here are the days of our generation. Baby Boomers and Gen X have made their homes, now it time for Millennials and Gen Z to find ours.
Virtually unknown places only a couple decades ago are now supporting populations well over 300,000 and into the millions, with more flocking there each day. Cities such as Denver, Colorado (#2 on Business Insider’s Best Places to Live 2019 and US News’ Best Places to Live 2019), Colorado Springs, Colorado (#3 on the same lists), Fayetteville, Arkansas (#5), Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina (#10), Huntsville, Alabama (#11), and Boise, Idaho (#17) will soon become the population epicenters that drives our economy. Today they may seem almost obsolete compared to New York, LA, and Houston, but tomorrow, they will be the leaders of our country.
Some of us will stay in our hometowns, some will follow the older generations to the dying cities, but most will go to the homes of the future. The old saying goes, “be a leader not a follower”, but what if our generation can do both? What if we can be the generation that leads each other out of our dying homes and forge new ones in places we never could have imagined before? In the end, we all choose where we want to live and the direction our lives will take us, but why can’t we also create our paths in cities that are truly ours and not the remains of some older generation’s ideal way of thinking. So, you may move to Austin, or Des Moines, or Fayetteville, but no matter which of these places you choose, you know you will be living in a space uniquely your own, and isn’t that what we all want?