The young are the restless: the problem of attracting and retaining young people.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Young adults (Emigration and immigration)
Metropolitan areas (Demographic aspects)
Author: Siegel, David
Pub Date: 12/22/2008
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Winter, 2008 Source Volume: 17 Source Issue: 2
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Ontario Geographic Name: Saint Catharines, Ontario Geographic Code: 1CONT Ontario
Accession Number: 210868151
Full Text: Abstract

Many communities have become concerned about their inability to retain and attract young people. This is an important issue because it raises concerns about where the next generation of leaders will come from. This paper begins with a broad overview of the 27 census metropolitan areas. First, it compares the percentage of young people in each CMA, then it focuses on the inflows and outflows of young people in each CMA. Finally, the paper focuses on the St. Catharines-Niagara (Ontario) CMA to find out what motivates young people to stay or leave that area.

Keywords: demographics, young people, economic development


Plusieurs communautes s'inquietent maintenant a propos de leur incapacite retenir ou attirer les jeunes. Ceci est une question importante puiqu'elle pose le probleme de savoir d'ou viendra la prochaine generation de dirigeants dans ces communautes. Cet article debute avec une description generale des 28 regions metropolitaines de recensement (RMR). Il compare d'abord le pourcentage de jeunes dans chacune des RMR, et il etudie ensuite les mouvements qui amenent les jeunes a quitter ces RMR ou a s'y installer. Finalement, cet article se penche sur la RMR de St. Catharines-Niagara (en Ontario) afin de mettre en lumiere ce qui pousse les jeunes a quitter cette region ou a y rester.

Mots cles: demographie, les jeunes, developpement economique


There is a growing demographic divide in Canada. Large cities (particularly those in the west) are becoming larger while small and medium size communities are not growing as much or, in some cases, are actually seeing a decrease in population. This divide is accentuated by the fact that larger cities also seem to attract more highly-educated people and high-income earners.

In communities that are on the losing side of this divide, the problem is frequently framed in terms of an inability to retain the young people who have grown up in the area. Local residents are concerned that young people are moving away because they are attracted by the jobs or the bright lights of the big cities which then raises concerns about where the next generation of local leaders will come from.

This paper addresses the issue of retaining and attracting young people. It begins with ah overview of theories about why people choose to move from one area to another. The second section provides a statistical overview of the age profile of the 27 (1) census metropolitan areas (CMAs) identified by Statistics Canada in 2001, followed by a more detailed profile of the movement of young people among the CMAs. Finally, the St. Catharines-Niagara, Ontario CMA is explored in more depth through the use of a series of focus groups with young people to determine what motivates them to stay in or leave a particular area.

Why Do People Move?

The systematic study of the "laws of migration" as this was once called is relatively recent. It is usually dated from two lengthy and detailed articles written by E.G. Ravenstein (1885, 1889), although he draws on a few scholars who preceded him in the field. The newness of the discipline could be explained by the lack of systematic data or possibly by the fact that in earlier times people were not as mobile as more recent generations. In 1776, Adam Smith wrote "a man is of all sorts of luggage the most difficult to be transported." (Smith 1937:75)

Ravenstein argued that the main impetus for movement in the United Kingdom was economic--people were moving from rural to urban areas, and from weaker economic areas to stronger economic areas. He did allow that "Farther inducements to migrate are offered by educational facilities, salubrity of the climate or cheapness of living," (1885:168) but the overall thrust of his work is on the economic motivation for migration. Ravenstein was actually witnessing the front end of a vast wave of movement from rural to urban areas caused by the pull of the industrial revolution in cities, and the push of farm mechanization and consolidation of farms in rural areas. However, the assumption of an economic motivation was actually a statistical inference on his part; he provides no evidence that he actually attempted to discover the motivation of any of the migrants.

In addition to this internal rural-to-urban migration, the "new world" including Canada also experienced a significant wave of immigrants from other countries, virtually all of whom moved into urban areas. In Canada these combined events resulted in a neat inversion of the population from a 20/80 urban/rural split in 1871 to an 80/20 split by 1991.

Ravenstein was really developing what was later called the gravity model, although that name only came into use in about the 1930s. As the name suggests, this model is based on a mechanistic physical science approach that holds that movement is based on molecules (people) being mechanistically drawn from areas with lesser attraction to those of greater attraction with distance as a mediating factor in that people would first move only a fairly limited distance unless there was a much stronger attraction drawing them further. In practical terms,

this means that people would be drawn to move from smaller areas to larger ones, usually moving to the closest larger area, although sometimes this was only a way-station on the way to larger and larger areas.

The mechanistic approach gave way to what came to be called the modified gravity model which took into account such factors as differential income in the departure and destination locations, tax rates, climate, and the quality of public services (as measured by public expenditure).

The models are "gravity type" in that migration is hypothesized to be directly related to the size of relevant origin and destination populations and inversely related to distance. The models are "modified" in the sense that the variables of the basic gravity model are given behavioral content, and additional variables that are importantly expected to influence the decision to migrate are included in the estimated relationship. (Greenwood and Hunt 2003:27-8)

The modified gravity model allowed for specific adjustments local to particular countries. For example, in Canada, Shearmur and Polese (2007) found that there was general movement from east to west and Newbold (1996:1028) found that Francophone Quebecers are less likely to move to another province than are Anglophones.

All of this leads to an idea that the migrant's intent is to improve her or his life, generally in economic terms (Greenwood and Hunt 2003:15). However, the modified gravity model shifts the impetus from strict economics to "spatial variations in utility" (Greenwood and Hunt 2003:16) suggesting that migrants could be prompted by factors other than pure economic ones.

This paved the way for Richard Florida's (2002) controversial approach to migration. He argued that members of the creative class, who constitute a fairly large proportion of the population in the twenty-first century and are the economic drivers of the new economy, move based on "what's there" (diverse and natural environment), "who's there" (interesting, diverse people), "what's going on" (street life, arts, culture, and music). He turns the previous idea of people moving to take jobs on its head by suggesting that employers move to where the creative people have chosen to live.

While there have been some significant critiques of Florida's argument (Peck 2005), there does seem to be general agreement that the gravity model needs to be modified to the extent that migrants are responding to a variety of factors beyond mechanistic economic considerations. For example, Liaw and Qi (2004:187) found that out-migrants from Ontario defy the economic imperative and experience a decline in income largely because most of these out-migrants choose to move to the low-income province of Quebec. Liaw and Qi suggest that these people move for social rather than economic reasons.

Most people who have moved or even had discussions with people who have moved are aware that the decision to migrate involves a very complex decisionmaking process. Migrants cannot afford to ignore the economics of a migration decision in that there must be some reasonable expectation of a livelihood at the other end, but for most people the economic aspect of the decision is significantly mediated by such factors as wanting to move closer to (or farther away from) family members, the wishes of a prospective life partner, and cultural or recreational opportunities.

The traditional approach to determining the "laws of migration" has been to analyze large datasets and infer the reasons for migration from characteristics of the dataset without ever asking migrants why they made their decision. This article focuses on a much smaller area than the previous analyses, but it attempts to breathe some life into an examination of why people move by asking some migrants and potential migrants why they have made the decisions that they have. However, the next step is to examine some demographic trends of the last few years.

The Demographic Overview

Residents generally like to see an increase in the population of their community. Some of this is vanity: I've chosen to live in this community, and the more other people who make that same decision, the more the wisdom of my own decision to live here is confirmed. For similarly personal reasons, parents frequently like their children and grandchildren to live nearby.

There are some economic factors as well. My house (the greatest single asset that most lower and middle-class people own) will increase in value if more people come to my community, while it will decrease in value if the community becomes depopulated. There is also a belief that an increasing population will hold the level of property taxes in check because the total amount of taxation is spread over an ever-larger population (cf. Kushner 1992). And finally, there is a general sense that a large and growing community will be more vibrant and will present more opportunities than a small, stagnant city--more restaurants, movie theatres, sporting events, recreational venues, and so forth.

Richard Florida (2002) takes a more complex and sophisticated view. He turns the old idea of attracting businesses in order to attract people on its head by arguing that truly dynamic places first attract talented people and then businesses follow those people. He talks about having discussions with employers who decided to relocate to particular cities because the employers knew that there were talented young people there who will come to work for them. Following this logic, a community that cannot retain and attract talented young people is on the road to destruction because it will not be able to attract good employers either.

There are several ways in which communities can grow. A few places have focused particularly on attracting retired people, but the more general approach is that communities focus on retaining their young people and ideally attracting people from other places as well. Young people turning their back on the community in which they grew up is not just a figurative slap in the face at the old home, but it also reduces the population. What to do about retaining and attracting young people has become a serious issue in a number of jurisdictions.

There are some major differences in the age distribution within CMAs. Table 1 shows the percentage of the population in the 25-34 age range (2) for 27 CMAs according to the 2006 census) There are a few surprises, but generally the CMAs with the highest proportion of young people are those with the strongest economies, while those at the bottom of the table are the CMAs that are experiencing some economic difficulty with declining manufacturing industries and job losses.

Residents in communities with a low percentage of young people frequently refer to an inability to "keep our young people." In fact, differences in the proportion of young people in the population are a product of at least three factors: differences in the birth rate 25-34 years ago, the outflow of people born in the area, and the inflow of people from elsewhere who move to this CMA. The first factor can be quite important, but it is outside the scope of this paper; this paper will focus on retaining and attracting young people in a community. The inflows and outflows are separate phenomena and should be treated as such. As will be shown later, a community could do a very good job of retaining its young people, but still suffer a deficit of young people because it does not attract many young people from other areas.

Tables 2 and 3 show the outflows and inflows for each CMA. The data in these tables are derived from a question in the 2006 census that asked respondents if they had moved between jurisdictions in the previous five years; and if so, from where and to where had they moved. This ignores people who have moved within the same CMA. However, it does take into account people who have moved from a non-CMA to a CMA or vice versa. The percentages in table 2 represent the number of people in the 25-34 age range who left a given CMA in the 2001-06 time period divided by the number of people in that age range living in the CMA in 2006.

Residents are sometimes concerned about the number of young people who leave their community, and this is frequently followed with an anecdote about that cute little girl up the street who went away to university and never returned, and the contribution she would be making now had she returned. However, some level of outflow of young people should not be surprising. Young people move. They are starting careers; they are not tied down by home ownership, mortgages or families. In fact, they are frequently making decisions about where they want to go to find a life partner, a career, and a place to spend the rest of their life. Statistics Canada figures indicate that almost 30% of residents in the 25-34 age range moved between major census divisions (not necessarily CMAs) in the 2001-06 period. This coincides with one of the first studies in this field which stated categorically that "The one generalization about migration differentials which can be considered definitely established ... is the following: there is an excess of adolescents and young adults among migrants, particularly migrants from rural areas to towns." (Thomas 1938:11, emphasis in original) It is unrealistic for any jurisdiction to think that it will be able to retain all, or even a significant portion, of its young people; these people are at an age when they want to explore.

However, the data in Table 2 indicate that some CMAs are more successful than other at retaining their young people. Not surprisingly, several of the municipalities at the top of this list are those which provide significant economic opportunities for young people, e.g., Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa-Gatineau. Others are more surprising because they are experiencing economic difficulties, e.g., Windsor, Winnipeg, St. Catharines-Niagara, and Hamilton. The full story in individual cases can only be learned by in-depth analyses that go beyond the scope of this paper. The gravity model focuses more on movement than on retention, but a corollary of the model might suggest that some communities have a draw anchored in economic opportunities (Toronto), others might supplement the economic with recreational opportunities (Calgary), or a picturesque natural setting (Vancouver), or some combination of the above. Other places might retain young people because of the strength of family or community ties. On the negative side, some CMAs might retain young people because they are not well enough educated to go elsewhere.

Table 3 illustrates the inflow into each CMA calculated in the same manner as the outflow in Table 2. Just as it is difficult to determine why some people leave a community and some stay, it is equally difficult to determine why some communities attract more people than others. The gravity model would suggest that economic motives are predominant, and that would explain the position of places like Calgary, Kitchener, and Edmonton. However, there are more quirks in this table than there were in the outflow table. At first glance, the high inflow into Oshawa might seem surprising, but matched with the low inflow into Toronto, this probably reflects young people coming to take jobs in the Toronto area, but unable to crack the Toronto housing market and thus living in the Oshawa area instead. The same situation likely explains the positions of Abbotsford and Vancouver.

Some cities might not be seen as boom towns compared to the overall Canadian situation, but are still catchment areas for their immediate surrounding areas: Trois-Rivieres, Halifax, Sherbrooke, Sudbury, and St. John's. Economic opportunities are relative. Looked at from Toronto, Sudbury might not seem to be an economic giant, but compared to other places in northern Ontario, it can be seen as offering some significant opportunities. This also supports the modified gravity model in that it suggests that people are not necessarily drawn directly to the largest cities, but rather that they move from smaller places, possibly making intermediate stops in local magnet cities on their way to the largest cities.

Communities at the low end of the table fit a pattern a bit better. With the exception of the anomalies of Toronto and Vancouver (4) which were discussed above, most of the communities at the low end of the table offer limited economic opportunities for new people. People might stay in a particular area because of the draw of family or because of general familiarity, but it is much more difficult to encourage someone to make the leap to come to an unfamiliar area if there is not the high likelihood of a job or other economic opportunity.

The population change in an area is a product of both the outflows and inflows discussed above. Therefore, the next step is to consider these movements together. Graph 1 plots the level of inflows and outflows on a scattergram. The averages of the inflows and outflows were also calculated to provide a centrepoint for the graph. This allows for the CMAs to be divided into four quadrants which provides a method of categorizing CMAs and identifying the strong and weak points of individual communities.


The best quadrant in which to be located is the upper-left--high inflow, low outflow. These are rapid growth areas with no real weakness at this point--Calgary and Oshawa. Edmonton almost falls into this quadrant. Surprisingly, Hamilton and Sudbury fall in this quadrant as well, although just barely.

The least desirable quadrant is the lower-right. These CMAs have both high outflow and low inflow so that they are experiencing real growth problems. These are all areas that are experiencing economic difficulties--Saquenay, Thunder Bay, Saint John, and Regina.

Most municipalities fall into the other two quadrants where one factor is working well, but the other is not. CMAs in the lower left are doing well in terms of retaining their young people, but are not attracting young people from other areas. For some of these CMAs, there is a ready explanation and there is not a serious problem. In Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, this probably reflects a tight housing market in the CMA itself, and a movement to the suburbs surrounding the CMA. However, the other municipalities in this quadrant have a more complex problem.

Some municipalities in this quadrant clearly have economic issues which make people reluctant to move there. However there can be a simple public relations or image problem as well. The fact that a lower than average proportion of people leaves these areas means that there must be some positives associated with them. It might be that the only remedy needed in these areas is an improved communications strategy to enlighten the footloose young people about the attractions of locating in these areas.

CMAs in the upper-right quadrant have the opposite problem. They are doing a good job of attracting new people, but they are losing an above average number of their young people. Some of these places are intermediate catchment areas for their surrounding regions, and could also serve as a staging area for people to move on to larger areas. For cities like Trois-Rivieres, Sherbrooke, Halifax, and St. John's it is easy to see how they would lose people because they are not economically as strong as some other places. However, they are the most prosperous cities in their immediate area so they both draw people from the smaller and less-developed communities in their area and lose people to the national centres.

These communities do not need to work on attracting more people, they need to develop a strategy to keep more of their own people at home, or to limit the way in which some people use these CMAs as waystations. This might involve a unique approach for each community beginning with conducting surveys or focus groups to determine why people are leaving.

CMAs in these latter two quadrants need to be aware of where their weakness is. There are two different problems that could lead to a low proportion of young people--high outflow, or low inflow. They are different problems and they need to be treated in different ways. Both types of problematic communities need to take a long, hard look at themselves, with the assistance of some knowledgeable young people, to determine why they have the problem that they have. The next section gives an example of how that was done in one place.

What Do the Young People Tell Us?

Demographic overviews such as those presented earlier give us an overview of what has happens, but they cannot tell us much about why it has happened. To try to understand the why, at least in one jurisdiction, some in-depth research was done in the Niagara area of Ontario. Seven focus groups involving a total of 51 young people who were currently living in the Niagara were conducted:

* two groups of 16-18 year old high school students (these groups were divided by gender);

* a group of Niagara College students, many of whom had grown up in the Niagara region;

* two groups of Brock University students, fairly even divided between those who grew up in Niagara and those who came to the area to attend Brock;

* a group of 20-35 year olds who were working in Niagara; composed of people who grew up in the area and those who came here to work;

* a group of 18-22 year olds who were involved with RAFT (Resource Association for Teens), an organization which describes itself as a "not-for-profit charitable organization, which provides support services to high-risk and homeless street youth."(The Raft 2008)

All participants were told that the focus groups would involve a discussion of "general issues related to whether you plan to stay in the Niagara area and pursue a career, and what factors will influence you in making that decision." (5)

The conduct of the focus groups was very informal and the participants were invited to state their own views. Most of them came to the session with fairly definite views on the topic and most were not reticent in expressing those views. While the participants were given relatively free rein, the facilitators ensured that at some point in the discussion, participants dealt with Richard Florida's famous three questions:

1. What do you want to do when you graduate (or some slight modification of wording as required)?

2. Where do you want to live when you graduate?

3. What would we have to do in our region to make this the kind of place where you'd want to stay?

The views from the focus groups were supplemented by perspectives provided by a number of young people interviewed for an article that appeared in The Standard (St. Catharines, Ontario) at about the time this research was being conducted (Beech 2008), and also by the results of a survey conducted by Leadership Niagara of 300 young people in the Niagara area. (6)

In addition to these views from young people still in the area, a number of young people who had grown up in Niagara, but have since moved, were sent a list of open-ended questions by e-mail, and they were asked to respond by e-mail. Ten responses were received.

It is always very difficult to do justice to the diversity of views expressed in focus groups. The strength of such groups is that they encourage a broad range of participants to express a broad range of views. With that caveat, the remainder of this section tries to capture the essence of these groups and the other inputs received.

There were many positive views expressed about the area. There was a significant amount of discussion about the natural beauty of the area, the easy access to biking and hiking opportunities, the lack of crime (although there was some disagreement about this), and the general positive feel of a small place rather than a big, busy city. There was much discussion of the sense of community that participants experienced in the area. Some who had lived in smaller places suggested that Niagara was just right--large enough to have most services, but not too large. One participant who was raising a young child explained that she had made a conscious decision to move from Toronto to Niagara because she felt that it would be a better and safer place to raise a child. A number of people also mentioned the low cost of living as a positive factor. In particular, this came up several times with those who had moved away to places like Toronto or Ottawa.

This was in line with the results of the Leadership Niagara survey in which respondents gave the area very high marks for "healthy natural environment," an ability to "lead a healthy lifestyle," "recreational opportunities," and "a great place to raise a family."

In sum, there were many positive comments, but most of them fell into a fairly narrow range. And those who expressed positive comments frequently did so in a strong and effusive manner. It was clear from the discussions that participants felt that the Niagara area had a great deal to recommend it. In that regard, it could be a bit misleading that this section will devote more space to negatives than to positives. There are several reasons for this. While the positives were strongly felt; they also fell into a fairly narrow range. The negatives were not always as deeply felt, but they were greater in quantity. Also, young people who have not yet made their final decision about where they want to live are probably an area's strongest critics. Finally, the focus on the negatives is somewhat deliberate in that it provides useful information about what needs improvement.

While there were many positive comments, several participants were not looking forward to spending the rest of their lives in the Niagara area. Only 33% of the respondents to the Leadership Niagara survey said that they planned to pursue a future in Niagara. Many of the focus group participants made the lament that seems to be made by young people everywhere: 'This place is boring. There's nothing to do here.' This generalized complaint was more common among the younger participants, the high school students. Older participants were not quite so negative, but they did express some of the same wanderlust, just in a more positive manner. One of the younger participants said: "I want to see the mountains. I want to see the Taj Mahal. I want to see the Great Wall of China." (7)

This criticism is difficult to assess because it is something of an anthem among young people that 'this place is boring and other places are better.' The fact that this seems to be repeated by young people almost everyplace makes it difficult to discern where these better places might be. However, some people were quite specific in the deficiencies that they saw. Most were pleased with the bar scene, but lamented the lack of a venue for major concerts except the Casino, which is expensive and caters more to an older and more affluent clientele. Others would have liked more interesting coffee shops where you can linger over conversations. Others focused on sports and were pleased with the recent addition of an Ontario Hockey League team, but lamented that there were not more such activities. A few mentioned arts and cultural activities, but were not sure if their feeling was shared by others of their age group.

It was clear that there was no one size fits all solution. Different people wanted different things. This might indicate why people are drawn to larger cities. Only these large cities can provide the breadth and diversity of opportunities to satisfy the interests of all these people.

A frequent view was that there were few jobs opportunities in the Niagara region for well-educated people. "I'd prefer to stay here. I grew up here. I like the area. It has everything you need, except jobs." The Niagara area is home to relatively few head offices or even major regional offices where senior positions in finance, human resources, law, or engineering would be found. Traditionally, most jobs have been of the semi-skilled, but well-paying, variety in the auto or other manufacturing industries. However, there seemed to be an automatic acceptance among participants that the future will hold limited opportunities in manufacturing. The idea that those jobs have gone away permanently is not always accepted by many in the older generation, but for younger people it seems to be a given.

Respondents lamented that tourism was becoming the dominant industry in the area. They saw problems with this at several levels. They were not enthused about the kind of jobs that could be found in the tourism industry, and they were upset that more and more businesses were catering to tourists and they felt that this drove up prices and affected the kinds of businesses that were established here. "I don't find that they take care of the residents of Niagara region as much as the people who are coming and going." Rightly or wrongly, the tourism industry was almost universally seen as a negative by these young people.

The other major change in the Niagara area is that it is increasingly becoming a home for retirees drawn by a relatively temperate climate and attractive cost of living. Some participants felt that this trend would mean that the area would take on the aura of a retirement community that is just not comfortable for twenty-somethings. There was a sense that this expanding group will be catered to more than younger people. One person half-joked that the major career opportunities in this area could be as personal support workers for senior citizens. Another person focused on how the overall perception of the area was changing.

I guess there's a stigma of Niagara that you're either working with the elderly or you're working in tourism ... From commercials, all you hear about is (Niagara's) wine industry or its tourism in Niagara Falls. If (young people are) not interested in working in either of those industries, then they'll just go find jobs elsewhere. (Engelage 2008)

Another concern related to the job situation was a lack of transportation to get to jobs. It is very difficult for someone without a car to get around the region. Only the three largest cities in the region have public transit systems, and it is difficult to get from one jurisdiction to another at reasonable cost.

The primacy of the job situation in the decision to stay or leave was supported by the comments of the group of respondents who were a bit older and had moved out of the region. Most expressed regret at having to move, and even raised the possibility of returning. However, those hopeful comments were then balanced by references to practical problems such as spousal employment issues or having contributed to a pension plan with their current employer. It seems that once people have left, it is very difficult to come back to the area at a future time, no matter what the strength of family ties or nostalgic feelings.

In some discussions, the concern about the lack of jobs led to a discussion about a more general malaise. Participants sometimes discussed what they regarded as the prevalence of bad neighbourhoods, people on welfare, and drug use. Safety was an issue that provoked contradictory views. Some participants felt exceptionally safe in the Niagara area. Others expressed concerns about certain specific areas. In truth, all of these problems are probably no worse in Niagara than in other areas, but young people frequently have no experience of other places, so they imagine that these concerns are greater in Niagara than in other places.

The respondents who had moved away were a bit older and more detached so they approached this issue at a somewhat different level. They had probably seen their share of bad neighbourhoods and drug use in many cities, q-hey frequently mentioned the lack of change and progress in the Niagara area, and the lack of political and other forms of leadership to drive this change.

The Brock students talked about being attached to the university, but not feeling a part of the broader community. One person used the phrase "Brock bubble." The students expressed satisfaction with the malls, restaurants, and bars. However, they felt that they did not get to know people outside "the bubble." Therefore, they did not feel that were really a part of the Niagara area. "The more I sit here talking about this, I think maybe I don't have enough information. I wouldn't mind knowing more and I think maybe a lot of people would enjoy knowing more about what the actual opportunities are around the area."

Difficulty in getting around the entire region without a car surfaced again in this discussion. Their world was bounded by where they could walk or easily ride a bus. They had heard a great deal about the beauty of the Niagara area, and lamented that they were not familiar with it, but they just did not have a convenient means of transportation to see the entire area.

The students were realistic in recognizing this as a two-way street. Some of them admitted that they had not made a serious effort to become more involved in the community. As with many university towns, there have been "town and gown" issues over the last few years. Some Brock students have made a point of engaging in positive activities in the community such as fund-raising for charities, but usually as part of a Brock team. i.e., the Brock bubble. However, there has also been some dissatisfaction in the community with drunken antics and vandalism attributed to Brock students.

The discussion indicated that there were some opportunities here on both sides. Some students clearly wanted to break out of the Brock bubble, but needed some assistance in doing so. If students could be made to feel more a part of the region, they might be more likely to stay after they finished school.

As mentioned earlier, every situation is unique. What we have learned about the Niagara situation suggests that there are certain things that must happen in the area in order for it to be more attractive to young people. Some of these are real changes, but others are more of the public relations type. These constitute things that are already present, but are not being emphasized enough.

At the top of the list is an increase in the number of well-paying, interesting jobs in diversified industries. While this is the most important consideration, it is probably also the most difficult to accomplish. However, there are some key words in the above sentence. Diversity is important. Niagara is a prime tourist area, and will probably continue to build on that as an important feature. How ever, young people want opportunities beyond the tourist industry, and they need well-paying, challenging jobs. Diversity is a key here.

Mobility is a key concern that came up in a number of different ways. Young people need good public transit to be able to take full advantage of the widely-dispersed job market. They also need transit to be able to visit other areas, to learn more about those areas, and to feel a part of the entire region.

The Niagara area needs to recognize that there is a tremendous asset that passes through the community in the form of Brock University and Niagara College students. However, these students are separated from the real community by the bubble. This will require some work by both sides and there are some obstacles to be overcome. There is a real opportunity to convert these temporary residents to permanent citizens, but this will require some outreach on both sides.

Some factors are already present, but the Niagara area must play them up more. Virtually everyone in the focus groups commented on the tremendous natural beauty of the Niagara area, and the recreational opportunities it offers. First, this natural beauty must be preserved, but second, it should be played up more in publicizing the Niagara area.

This beauty ties in with the medium size and the sense of community of the area. There was a sense among participants that the area was large enough to have all the right amenities, but small enough to have a good sense of community. "It's really nice. I like that it's not as congested as big cities are, but you still have everything you need. Niagara-on-the-Lake is beautiful. This [Niagara College] campus is beautiful." (Wallace 2008)

The other positives that were discussed frequently were personal safety and a reasonable cost of living. There is a general consensus that these are both very positive aspects of the Niagara area, but they are not emphasized much in the way the area views itself. They were clearly significant motivating factors for the participants in our groups.


Many communities are concerned about the need to attract and retain young people. Young people are the leaders of tomorrow. Without them, communities will not thrive and prosper. Some communities are doing a better job of attracting and retaining youth than others, but each situation is unique. This paper provided a broad overview of what is happening across all 27 census metropolitan areas, and an in-depth discussion of strengths and opportunities in one of those areas. It is likely that different communities are experiencing the decline in the number of young people for different reasons and each community needs to consider its unique situation. An in-depth review of the situation in the Niagara area identified some strengths and some weaknesses, but the major point is that these weaknesses can all be improved.


The author would like to acknowledge the research assistance of Julia Blushak, Golnoush Bolourani, Fran Chandler, Louise Davis, Shelley Parkes, and Kate Williams. The financial support of the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, and Brock University is gratefully acknowledged. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the author. The author also acknowledges the very helpful advice provided by the Journal's two anonymous reviewers.


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David Siegel

Department of Political Science

Brock University


(1) There were 27 CMAs in 2001 and 33 in 2006. Since this article involves the calculation of changes between those two dates, the focus was on the 27 CMAs that existed on both dates.

(2) The 25-34 age group was chosen as the cohort for analysis even though the upper end of this cohort might seem a bit old to qualify as "young people" because some later analysis considers decisions made by members of this group in the previous five years, thus extending the age range to 20. Moving to a younger cohort would involve moving to age 15 at which time people would be more likely moving with their family rather than making their own autonomous decision.

(3) There was some concern that a high proportion of retired people would distort these figures by reducing the percentage of young people. To test this, a calculation was made of the 25-34 group as a percent of the population under 65. This changed the rank order of CMAs only very slightly. For example, at the bottom of the table St. Catharines-Niagara and Thunder Bay switched places as did Trois-Rivieres and Saguenay. The top two remained unchanged. Therefore, it was decided to use the calculation based on total population.

(4) Montreal would fit this same pattern except that its suburban area is spread in such a way that it does not have a single suburban CMA analogous to Abbotsford or Oshawa.

(5) Excerpt from invitation letter sent to participants.

(6) Unpublished information provided directly to the author.

(7) Unless otherwise specified, the direct quotations in this section are comments made in the focus groups. By agreement with participants, specific comments are not identified with specific participants.
It's very challenging to commute in the Niagara region because
   everything is so scattered. There's no straight buses--like you
   can't go from St. Catharines to Port Colborne to Welland ... So you
   [are] pretty much required to drive to just about anywhere,
   especially with the winters, you need a car.

Table 1. Percent of population aged 25-34
Census Metropolitan Areas, 2006

Calgary                  15.9
Edmonton                 14.5
St. John's               14.3
Kitchener                14.1
Toronto                  14.1
Montreal                 13.9
Halifax                  13.9
Saskatoon                13.8
Vancouver                13.7
Regina                   13.4
Quebec                   13.4
Ottawa-Gatineau          13.3
Windsor                  13.3
Winnipeg                 13.1
London                   12.9
Abbotsford               12.7
Sherbrooke               12.7
Canada                   12.7
Oshawa                   12.3
Kingston                 12.2
Saint John               12.0
Hamilton                 12.0
Victoria                 11.8
Greater Sudbury          11.7
Saguenay                 11.2
Trois-Rivieres           11.1
Thunder Bay              11.0
St. Catharines-Niagara   10.8

Source: Calculated from: Statistics Canada. 2007. Age Groups (14)
and Sex (3) for the Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories,
Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2000 Census--
100% Data (table). Topic-based tabulation. 2006. Census of
Population. Statistics Canada catalogue no. 97-551-XCB200612.
Ottawa. Released July 17, 2007.

Table 2. Outflow (2001-06) of 25-34 year olds as a
% of 25-34 year old residents (2006)

  Toronto                    9.2
  Montreal                   9.6
  Vancouver                 10.8
  Calgary                   14.6
  Windsor                   14.9
  Edmonton                  15.5
  Winnipeg                  15.9
  Ottawa--Gatineau          16.0
  St. Catharines--Niagara   17.6
  Oshawa                    17.6
  Quebec                    18.5
  Hamilton                  20.2
  Greater Sudbury           20.5
Average                     21.4
  St. John's                21.7
  Kitchener                 21.9
  Regina                    22.7
  Abbotsford                23.1
  London                    23.8
  Saint John                23.8
  Thunder Bay               24.1
  Halifax                   26.3
  Saguenay                  27.5
  Victoria                  27.9
  Trois-Rivieres            29.9
  Sherbrooke                31.3
  Saskatoon                 31.8
  Kingston                  41.8

Source: Calculated from same source as Table 1 and Statistics
Canada, 2006 Census of Population, Statistics Canada catalogue
no. 97-556-XCB2006012.

Table 3. Inflow (2001-06) of 25-34 year olds as a
% of 25-34 year old residents (2006)

Oshawa                      30.9
  Kingston                  27.1
  Abbotsford                24.5
  Victoria                  24.1
  Trois-Rivieres            22.8
  Halifax                   22.3
  Sherbrooke                22.2
  Calgary                   21.4
  Greater Sudbury           20.9
  St. John's                20.4
  Kitchener                 20.0
  Saskatoon                 18.8
  Hamilton                  18.8
  Edmonton                  18.4
Average                     18.4
  London                    18.3
  Regina                    18.0
  Saguenay                  17.8
  Ottawa--Gatineau          17.0
  Thunder Bay               17.0
  Quebec                    16.8
  Saint John                16.4
  St. Catharines--Niagara   13.9
  Vancouver                 11.1
  Windsor                   10.2
  Winnipeg                  10.2
  Toronto                    8.5
  Montreal                   8.0

Source: Calculated from same source as Table 1 and Statistics
Canada, 2006 Census of Population, Statistics Canada catalogue
no. 97-556-XCB2006012.
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