Highly educated Americans are choosing cheaper metropolitan centers in the West and South over more dominant—and expensive—population centers on the coasts and former industrial hubs.
After flocking to areas with ample employment opportunities such as New York City and Los Angeles for years, the nation’s most educated are fanning out in search of better jobs, lower housing costs and improved quality of life.
The 25 U.S. counties with the largest net inflow of people older than 25 with graduate or professional degrees arriving from out of state are nearly all linked to more affordable cities like Raleigh, N.C., and San Antonio, according to an analysis of census data by The Wall Street Journal.
Demographers cite several causes for the shift, including soaring property prices in coastal areas, stagnant paychecks and heightened wariness about the increase in debt that is often the price of admission in bigger cities. The proliferation of regional technology hubs in places such as Raleigh also plays a role, while taxes are often lower in parts of the South.
“It’s a kind of middle-class flight—a bright flight,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank in Washington, D.C. “People are moving to where the cost of living is reasonable.”