It’s almost conventional wisdom: young people are leaving (or not coming to) Vancouver because they can’t afford to live here; appropriate housing is unavailable, especially for families; there are no jobs or at least jobs that pay well enough; opportunity is elsewhere; fill in blank with appropriate reason.

Is that true?

Hard to know what will happen, but at least we know what has happened.  Here are some data, put together by a PT researcher.  Read the notes carefully; it’s more complicated than it looks.



2001 to 2011 (US cities 2000 to 2010)

Age - 20-24



2001 to 2011 (US cities 2000 to 2010)

Age 25-29


The first columns are the absolute change over 10 years. Everywhere except San Francisco added people in both those age groups over the decade. The percent change is as a percent of the 2000 or 2001 number – so, for instance, we added 13.5% 25-29 year olds, while the total population increased by 10.6%.

However, in the rest of the Metro Vancouver area, while the entire population rose by 18.6% that age cohort only increased by 8.1%. Vancouver was more attractive to move to than the rest of the region if you were aged 25-29 – although there were still three times more people in that age group added in the rest of the region than in the city because Vancouver can only accommodate a small proportion of the region’s growth overall.

The next column looks at the number aged 20-24 (and 25-29) compared to the number 10 years younger, 10 years earlier. It gets to the net growth over the number already in the city (if they all stayed in one place. Obviously they don’t – some left, but even more arrived). You’ll see that there’s a big increase in all the cities in all the age groups. Cities are where you move when you’re young.

But you’ll see the story for the rest of the CMA is very different from the City of Vancouver. It’s way more attractive – and proportionally it’s between Seattle and Portland and almost identical to Denver. San Francisco is easily the biggest number, and proportion. It looks as if that was even more true a decade earlier, which is why the number of 25-29 year olds are slightly lower in 2010 than in 2000. Seattle adds more 20-24 year olds (# and %) – in part that might be the University of Washington having an impact.

It’s a complicated story. But is the sky falling and all the young people leaving Vancouver? Not so you’d notice – at least, not in the city. It might be true in White Rock or West Vancouver, of course.