About The Columbus Young Professionals Club

Smart, young ... and leaving

Younger folks thriving in Columbus, but more of them are moving on
August 15, 2006
By Tim Doulin

Columbus has risen in the ranks of cool cities for young adults, but it's fighting to hold on to them.

U.S. Census data released today says Columbus’ population is relatively young and well-educated compared with other large cities across the country.

And a recent survey by Forbes magazine says Columbus is the 11th-best city for single people in the United States, up from 28th place in 2003.

"There are young, interesting, intelligent people in the community and Columbus still has five to 10 years of growth in front of it," said Derek Grosso, 25, co-founder of the Columbus Young Professionals Club. "I would compare it to a popular nightclub. When they see other people going there, they’ll want to go as well.

"Looking at traditional Columbus, people aren’t really expecting a whole lot of action or diversity," he said. "You expect that from New York or Chicago. But since you don’t expect it, it’s an even greater reward to find that it really is here."

But dig into the new census numbers, and you find that like many other cities, Columbus is struggling to keep its young adults: The number of 25-to 34-year-olds here declined by about 4.8 percent between 2000 and 2005.

"They are aging and moving," said Mark Salling, a demographer at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.

Columbus’ household population of 693,983 in 2005 makes it the 15th largest city in the country. The figure excludes those living in institutions, college dormitories and other group quarters.

The median age in Columbus in 2005 was 32.1 years. That is lower than the national median age of 36.4 years and ranks third-lowest among the 15 largest cities in the country.

"People are friendly here," said Jennifer Lowe, 22, who works Downtown as a bookkeeper. "It’s like living in the South without having to put up with hurricanes and heat waves."

Lowe, originally from New Albany, N.Y., followed her college roommate, who was from Columbus, here when they graduated.

"She had a lot of hometown pride," Lowe said. "I didn’t get it at first, but this place has gotten to me. I hope to get married and have kids here."

That’s what Columbus officials want to hear.

"That is a critical group to the city’s future strength," said Mike Brown, spokesman for Mayor Michael B. Coleman.

"How do we get them to Columbus and get them to stay here, start their families here, start their careers here?"

The household population is up by only 172 people from 2000. The median age of 32.1 years is up from 30.6 five years ago. And the 25-to-34-year-old population of 131,641 is down by 6,631 from 2000.

Forbes magazine recently ranked Columbus as the 11th best city for single people in the United States, which is much better than its 28th place showing in 2003.

The Forbes study scored 40 cities in seven areas: culture, nightlife, job growth, cost of living, single population numbers, online dating activity and "coolness," determined by the amount of diversity and creative professions.

Nearly half of the Columbus population, 49 percent, is unmarried or divorced, according to 2005 census estimates. A large percentage of those residents are between 20 and 34.

"This place has mojo," said Derek Brown, 31, who grew up in Detroit and came to Columbus for college.

He didn’t finish at Ohio Dominican University, but stayed in the city.

"You can feel like you’re still in college even in your 30s; you gotta like that," Brown said while sipping a latte with friends at the MoJoe Lounge and Cup O’ Joe in the Short North.”

People in Columbus also are relatively well-educated.

About 31.4 percent of people 25 and older in Columbus have a bachelor’s degree or higher, putting the city behind only San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, Calif., and New York among the 15 largest cities, according to the census. Roughly 27.2 percent of the population nationwide and 23.3 percent in Ohio have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Those marks are impressive, but some say Columbus should be doing better.

"In a way, that is a little disappointing, given all the colleges we have here," said Rosemary Gliem, director of the Extension Data Center at Ohio State University.

"Ohio, as a whole, is not making headway in the number of people with bachelor’s degrees and more who are actually staying and working in the state, Columbus included."

Though Columbus’s foreign-born population of 9.1 percent is smaller than the national figure of 12.4 percent, it is growing.
In 2005, there were 63,134 foreign-born residents in Columbus, up from 47,713 five years earlier, according to the census. Residents from Africa and Latin America make up the biggest influx.

Last year, Columbus had about 19,000 African-born residents, up from about 9,500 in 2000.

"Somalis are a growing population in the city," Salling said.

The 13,400 Latin American-born people in Columbus last year is up about 80 percent from 2000.

Nationally, minority groups make up an increasing share of the population in every state but one.

West Virginia is the exception, with its struggling economy and little history of attracting immigrants.

Immigrants – legal and illegal – make up a growing portion of the population in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Nationally, they went from 11.1 percent of the population in 2000 to 12.4 percent.

Dispatch reporters Amanda Kawalek and Encarnacion Pyle and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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