Pittsburgh has a more youthful glow, and the country is taking note.
A study from Pew Charitable Trusts analyzed US census data from between 2000 and 2014 and found that Pittsburgh is number three on a list of 20 large cities experiencing a millennial boom, ranking below Jersey City, NJ and Washington, DC. While the overall population in Pittsburgh has dropped by 29,000, the number of young college graduates under the age of 35 increased by 53 percent, or almost 15,000.
The most noticeable jumps happened in Rust Belt cities, which includes Pittsburgh, as well as Buffalo, NY, Baltimore, MD and St. Louis, MO. These once-struggling areas, which were hit hard by decades of declining industry, are now thriving tech-based economies in need of an educated workforce.
Experts behind the study believe a major reason young talent has sought out Pittsburgh is because of the collaboration between the private sector and higher education institutions. Among its many accomplishments, Carnegie Mellon University has attracted companies like Uber with its robotics work. Both CMU and the University of Pittsburgh have been instrumental in developing advanced additive manufacturing techniques with local industries. Pitt also recently made a commitment to become more of a driving force for entrepreneurship and business in the area. These efforts give graduates access to jobs with existing companies and the tools to succeed on their own.
Cost of living was also cited as a reason for the shift. Compared to West Coast tech hubs like San Francisco or Seattle, Pittsburgh, as well as its Rust Belt counterparts, offers more affordable real estate, which allows young people just starting out to buy homes or start businesses.
“That’s why people move from let’s say Silicon Valley to Pittsburgh or Akron [OH],” said study expert Antoine van Agtmael, co-author of the book The Smartest Places on Earth: Why Rustbelts Are the Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation, during a recent talk at the Brookings Institution.