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Why Calgary is losing its young adults?

Why Calgary is losing its young adults?

  • Too cold

    Votes: 1 8.3%
  • Not enough job opportunities

    Votes: 6 50.0%
  • Conservative nature of Province

    Votes: 8 66.7%
  • School in other cities

    Votes: 6 50.0%
  • All of the above

    Votes: 3 25.0%

  • Total voters
    12

darwink

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The most mobile demographic. I left around the same time. The people I know who stayed ended up in oil and gas. By leaving I was able to proceed in my career faster than if I had stayed. Calgary is like a government town except instead of government administration we had a myriad of oil and gas administration. Despite our self formed image of entrepreneurship outside of wildcatting and small manufacturing we are a big organization city. When dry natural gas collapsed we pivoted to even larger companies and the work needed to support one of the largest capital investments on the planet. We shouldn’t be surprised that when that declined there aren’t 100 50-100 people companies in growth phase to take a bet on young people to grow with them.
 

JonnyCanuck

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Also, young people are the face of the climate change movement. If you truly believe (as a lot of them do) that fossil fuels will be phased out in the next decade; you probably don't think there is viable future in Calgary at least for professional jobs. Go to where the opportunities are more plentiful .. i.e. Toronto, Vancouver and perhaps Ottawa.
 

Surrealplaces

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I think it's a few different factors. Definitely there are youth who do leave Calgary to go to school, that's always been the case, but with the downturn many aren't able to come back and get jobs right away. Also there more job opportunities for people in the ago group who didn't take post secondary....that has also changed recently with the downtown. There are other reasons too of course. As has been mentioned the future of fossil fuels has probably created some doubt. My guess it it's mostly about job opportunities.

If oil suddenly started booming, and was busy for a couple of years, this thread would be long forgotten about. I think things will pick up and this conversation will get pushed to the back burner for a while. Ultimately there still is the long term to think about.
 

Silence&Motion

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I've raised this in other threads as well, but it's worth repeating: there are two basic drives behind migration: lifestyle and employment. Conventionally we think of migration as being driven by a search for employment, and lifestyle just emerges as a result of people settling some place. I think Calgarians traditionally maintain this mentality: it's all about the employment rate, average salary, and the health of a single industry. People will purchase their own desired lifestyle with the big bucks they make in oil and gas.

However, the increasingly dominant theory is the opposite: people move to cities based on lifestyle choices, and then they look for employment once they get there (and employment may be related to lifestyle in the sense that people want jobs they feel good about, as opposed to just being financially lucrative). This is more the model of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. They all have traditionally had above average unemployment rates. Most of the young people moving there aren't pursuing jobs. They're often looking for any excuse to get there. More often than not, that excuse is post-secondary education. In fact, lifestyle-driven migration goes hand-in-hand with post-secondary education, since this is probably the most common moment in someone's life when they would be willing to move cities. Because universities in Canada are generally equal at the undergraduate level, lifestyle is a common driver of people's choices. And people's perception of lifestyle (especially in cities they've never lived in) depends a lot on the reputation of the city. Cities that are perceived as being more progressive have a distinct advantage of attracting young people.

Toronto didn't just become a lifestyle destination by accident. It was an explicit strategy on the part of the Provincial and Municipal governments, and involved (among other things) large investments in arts, culture, and education at the end of the 1990s and throughout the 2000s, as the city was emerging out of a prolonged recession. The investment in OCAD U is perfect example of this*.

The Alberta government doesn't have very much control over the oil boom and busts, but it does have money to invest in post-secondary education. Since moving for post-secondary education is such an important hinge point in people's lives, it seems the clear strategy here is to invest in making Alberta's universities/colleges more attractive, which includes improving the quality, affordability, and diversity of education in the province. A no-brainer to me is to make a massive investment in AUofA. Transform it from a dinky pseudo-university housed in a decaying, nondescript building on SAIT campus to the centre of a major hub within the inner-city, where there's room for spin-off uses to establish themselves. An project like this costs relatively little money: 10's of millions or, at most, low-100s of millions.

Investing in things like that will also help the stickier problem of dealing with Calgary's lousy reputation.

*Edit: it's worth noting that these investments were made by the very conservative Harris government in Ontario.
 

darwink

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There are issues for sure, but certainly for the number of post secondary spaces versus the population, Calgary is the lower than Edmonton. And Both Calgary and Edmonton are lower than Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa.
 

Silence&Motion

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This additional graph that Robson Fletcher posted on twitter (but which was left out of the original article) makes it seem even more dire (and not attributable to a fluctuation in the birth rate.


It's interesting to see how much growth Winnipeg is seeing, since Calgarians often use Winnipeg as the "doomsday" scenario of what might happen to our city if we follow O&G into permanent decline.
 

Social Justice

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Really good thread!

I agree with both Darwink and Silence&Motion.

I'd say the reason we've seen a decline in the increase in young people is threefold:

1. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are way more fun, for someone between the ages of 18-30. Trendy cafes and restaurants, art scene, more lively... generally more hipster stuff.
2. As Darwink mentioned there are probably less post secondary spaces versus the population. As Silence and Motion mentioned, now would be the perfect time to expand a university into inner city space. Prices are low.
3. Compared to other Canadian cities, ou unemployment rate remains very high. A few tech companies are moving to Calgary, but generally speaking I don't think companies are hiring new grads like they used to. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1410029401

But...I don't think it's all doom and gloom. Our city has a few advantages. Also, I think as young professionals reach the age where they'd like to start a family, many will return to Calgary:

1. Proximity to the mountains
2. Real estate prices are relatively cheap. You can buy a condo in the Beltline for under $200K. You can buy an inner city home for under 800K. You can buy a 60's bungalow in Fairview/Acadia/Haysboror with a 50ft wide lot for under $500,000.
3. Calgary still as a good quality of life.


Sunnyside: https://www.realtor.ca/real-estate/21354829/918-2-av-nw-sunnyside-calgary-sunnyside
Haysboro: https://www.realtor.ca/real-estate/21356243/47-hazelwood-cr-sw-haysboro-calgary-haysboro
 

Alex_YYC

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People have raised good points in this thread, but I can’t help but wonder if people are reading too much into this. It’s one very specific demographic that also happens to be the age of post secondary students. Everyone knows Calgary has a low percentage of post secondary spots compared to other cities. It’s also worth noting the next demographic up 24-35 has shown big increases. I’d like to see the increases on that demographic in the other cities shown above. I’ve known many who have gone to school in other cities and come back.

The 20-24 demographic is important but does not make a city, and I would argue the next demographic up is actually far more important.

That said we still need to make Calgary more desirable for the 20-24. As social justice mentioned we have done things going for us, and yeah we have to move past the mentality that making lots of money is all that matters.
 

CBBarnett

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People have raised good points in this thread, but I can’t help but wonder if people are reading too much into this. It’s one very specific demographic that also happens to be the age of post secondary students. Everyone knows Calgary has a low percentage of post secondary spots compared to other cities. It’s also worth noting the next demographic up 24-35 has shown big increases. I’d like to see the increases on that demographic in the other cities shown above. I’ve known many who have gone to school in other cities and come back.

The 20-24 demographic is important but does not make a city, and I would argue the next demographic up is actually far more important.

That said we still need to make Calgary more desirable for the 20-24. As social justice mentioned we have done things going for us, and yeah we have to move past the mentality that making lots of money is all that matters.
People have been reading too much into this - although I completely agree with the sentiment on this site and others to the reasons why.

I think what's amazing about this story is how surprising or current folks are making it. I have lived in Calgary my whole life and was 20 - 24 in the 2005 - 2009 period, apparently when times were "good" for that age group according to the narrative. Every single quote in that article could have been from 2020, 2014, 2008, 2000 ... the truth is Calgary has never been competitive for the young adult crowd, specifically students and 20 to 24. The fallacy that is being challenged by this article and the data presented is that boom or bust, for young adults it's actually fairly irrelevant: Calgary hasn't competed in decades.

The political argument is compelling (e.g. too conservative here) but fairly hard to prove or quantify. Likely - as other have stated - there are a few key factors:
  • A smaller university system that doesn't compete in culture, quantity of spaces or quality of rankings. With less students the student market had less influence, producing weaker cultural products.
  • Compounding factor that the university system is suburban, making urban/young adult economics harder as people are spread out and less connected to the universities themselves. Bars, music, arts all suffer when their generally poorer 20 to 24 demographic is smaller and more diffuse.
  • Compounding factor is the decades long mega-boom that created a ton of expensive rent, houses, condo towers and office buildings while pricing out and erasing cheap, old, quirky urban places to live/work/play for 20 to 24 year olds. Anyone with access to StatsCan data will see that for most of the past two decades while the inner city "boomed" it actually transitioned - huge growth in 25 to 34 year olds and a slow and steady decline of young adults. Many neighbourhoods in the inner city contains less 20 to 24 year olds than they did a decade ago, all while the population boomed.
  • Rather than do anything to solve the gap or compete for young adults, all politicians, corporations and lobby groups were complacent as they gorged of decades of decadent stampede corporate events produced a wealth of fancy, corporate friendly infrastructure (NMC, BMO, Telus Convention Centre, Telus Spark and soon new BMO and arena) rather than anything young adult friendly or cool. They rested on "fastest growing" and "youngest" city without realizing they weren't ever talking about 20 to 24 year olds.
  • A counter-point to my previous might be that it is arguable that institutions can't really be "cool" or at least "cool enabling" when they are never populated or controlled by the group in question - 20 to 24 year olds. Vested interest and more pressing/loud challenges with rapid growth distracted a generation of thinkers, while young adults were ignored. However they were also anti-youth as well: late to the game for active transit, no public acknowledgement in Calgary's history by anyone in authority that the night economy is an actual thing outside stampede, multiple rejections of late night transit, and wide-spread anti-rental sentiment.
  • Trigger warning: outside of Calgary in Canada our city's brand is either toxic or non-existent to huge swathes of 20 to 24 year olds. It's seen as a conservative place (thanks to our outsized voice in federal politics) and a place to work for old people (yes, they mean 30 year olds and up) and wildly suburban and boring. Combined with small universities with limited strengths there is not a winning formula to attract 20 to 24 year olds from elsewhere given the competition.
My too long, didn't read:
I love the article and the attention it brought. But it's hardly a new issue and the bewildered look of people realizing young people don't always stay here is proof on how blind some have been to this decades long issue. It's not too late but there needs to be a concerted effort. Perhaps a young adult coalition?
 

Silence&Motion

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I love the article and the attention it brought. But it's hardly a new issue and the bewildered look of people realizing young people don't always stay here is proof on how blind some have been to this decades long issue. It's not too late but there needs to be a concerted effort. Perhaps a young adult coalition?
It's not an new issue, but it's becoming increasingly important as Calgary shifts to a diversified economy. We can't necessarily compete like we used to on ultra high salaries to drag people here who would rather not move to the city. We need to attract people to come to the city when they are at their most mobile - i.e. when they are about to attend university. The city's reputation is toxic, but the city itself is actually much nicer than people initially realize. There's a reason it's now beating out Toronto and Vancouver in livability rankings. If we could draw in (or retain) more young people to our universities, it's pretty easy to develop a liking for the city. People get involved with things while they're at university and they end up sticking around. I mean, that woman in the article talked about how much she likes Hamilton....HAMILTON!! If someone can go to McMaster and end up liking Hamilton, you can easily like Calgary.
 

CBBarnett

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It's not an new issue, but it's becoming increasingly important as Calgary shifts to a diversified economy. We can't necessarily compete like we used to on ultra high salaries to drag people here who would rather not move to the city. We need to attract people to come to the city when they are at their most mobile - i.e. when they are about to attend university. The city's reputation is toxic, but the city itself is actually much nicer than people initially realize. There's a reason it's now beating out Toronto and Vancouver in livability rankings. If we could draw in (or retain) more young people to our universities, it's pretty easy to develop a liking for the city. People get involved with things while they're at university and they end up sticking around. I mean, that woman in the article talked about how much she likes Hamilton....HAMILTON!! If someone can go to McMaster and end up liking Hamilton, you can easily like Calgary.
Completely agree. I would only add that I am happy this issue is getting attention - it's always been an issue and it's always been important but we had the luxury to ignore competitiveness for some demographics for the reasons you mentioned. It really is a great city and wins over most when they visit (unless they only see a relative in the burbs). There are great bones here and lots of things heading the right direction.

What worries me is (1) a complete lack of any real acknowledgement by anyone with a voice/power/authority that students/young adults are a unique demographic we are completely non-competitive with, (2) we currently have no tangible plan or ideas to begin the long work of fixing this even in small incremental actions, (3) our past, current and future economic and vibrancy objectives are at risk as a result. Love the OCAD example, as it's exactly the type of action withing a government's control that they could do to start the rehabilitation work of our brand.

Unfortunately I see signs we are pulling farther away from that kind of strategy, not closer. Provincially we still haven't admitted that the future is an urban one and that attracting young people to cities is part of the winning strategy.
 

Silence&Motion

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Provincially we still haven't admitted that the future is an urban one and that attracting young people to cities is part of the winning strategy.
Bang on! There are a lot of people in Calgary who do realize this. Many in our municipal government as well. Let’s hope we one day get a provincial government that will be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
 

Disraeli

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I recall this has come up before. I'm sure everyone has a take on the reasons behind it.

One thing i want to add is these "route ahead" articles are perpetuating this regressive, doom and gloom stereotype of Calgary. Every opinion in this article is presented as matter of fact and there is no attempt to provide a different perspective. Like that quote from that McMaster student about Hamilton having more culture than Calgary made me want to throw up. Why not get a comment from the hundreds of millennials involved in Sled Island, Arts Commons, Folk Fest, Pride ext ext. to help present some balance?
Here is another gem of CBC article that plays up this stereotype: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-family-friendly-city-richard-white-1.5451558
 

Surrealplaces

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Good points. While the article brings up some good points, the anecdotal evidence is unfortunately lame. One can easily find any number of people to give anecdotal evidence for any kind of story slant.

The anecdotal evidence that I've seen myself mostly relates to jobs. One thing that used to happen is people didn't have to do post secondary and could still land good work - that situation could keep a number of people leaving to other cities to go to school. With it tougher out there I wouldn't be surprised if larger numbers of people in that demographic have decided to continue with their schooling, and with a limited number of spots in Calgary, many would have to leave the city for that.
I know in years past many people I've known have moved away to go to school, and many moved back after they were finished because there were good opportunities.Those who didn't move back right away often moved back later when they were starting families. So far the stats still support that scenario with large gains in the next demographic up.

I don't know if we need to push any panic buttons yet, still Calgary needs to keep moving in the direction it's going as there's always room for improvement.

One thing i want to add is these "route ahead" articles are perpetuating this regressive, doom and gloom stereotype of Calgary. Every opinion in this article is presented as matter of fact and there is no attempt to provide a different perspective. Like that quote from that McMaster student about Hamilton having more culture than Calgary made me want to throw up. Why not get a comment from the hundreds of millennials involved in Sled Island, Arts Commons, Folk Fest, Pride ext ext. to help present some balance?
 

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