Examining & Verifying the Escondido Youth Exodus

Published Monday, June 10th, 2013 by Dave Woods

Last week, I introduced the topic of the Escondido Youth Exodus. If you haven’t seen it yet, you really need to check it out first to give this second article in the series some context.

After reading article one, some of you may be wondering how legitimate the exodus really is. After all, I’ll be the first to admit that my subjective perceptions based on observing the behaviors of less than 50 friends or acquaintances is hardly scientific or statistically valid. Even I wanted more proof as to the existence and true extent of the youth exodus.

As a result, I turned to data provided by SANDAG's Profile Warehouse. These estimates are based in large part on data from the 2010 census, and they examine every community in San Diego County from every statistical angle possible.

In particular, I was interested in:

  • Percentages of change in population between the 0-17 age group and the 18-34 age group. Beyond the obvious fact that they represent sequential generations, I chose these two age ranges because both represent equal seventeen-year spans of life, which should make for a fair comparison. Furthermore, since very few deaths typically occur within these age groups, it seems logical and ideal to think that population numbers for any "normal" community should be relatively equal / flat across these two age groups without huge increases or decreases.
  • How the percentages of change between these two age groups varied from city to city, and from urban zip code to urban zip code, in various parts of San Diego county. There’s an important reason I chose urban zip codes containing downtown areas, which I will explain later in this article.

The results were fascinating and revealing. To keep things simple, I’ll post the percentages only and omit the actual population numbers.

City vs. City Results

Percentage of population gained or lost in the 18-34 age group vs. the 0-17 age group:

  • Escondido:
    7.46% loss
  • San Marcos:
    9.38% loss
  • Carlsbad:
    21.85% loss
  • San Diego:
    39.33% gain

Pretty stunning, isn’t it? I should remind you that the numbers for the city of San Diego account for ALL of San Diego, including its suburban neighborhoods like Clairemont, Mira Mesa, University City, and Rancho Bernardo. So, this isn’t a skewed comparison that looks only at the youth-friendly, urban Gaslamp Quarter. The entire population of all four of the cities listed has been accounted for.

What was most shocking to me was the percentage of decrease in San Marcos and especially Carlsbad. Conventional wisdom often says that Carlsbad and cities like it have the beach, "which all the young people love," so that’s where all the Escondido youth move when they get a little older. Apparently not.

What the numbers above do indicate is that the youth exodus may be a problem that affects ALL of north San Diego county. Perhaps our region is viewed more favorably by adults above 35 who have kids than it is by 18-34 year olds just getting started in their careers? That could pose a problem for the north county region’s efforts to band together and attract more tech businesses if the upwardly-mobile 18-34 age group likely to fill those jobs doesn’t want to live here.

One final note about Escondido… I also took a look at 1990 and 2000 census data to see what the trend has been in our city over time. At all three points in time, the 0-17 bracket has held a fairly steady percentage of the city’s total population. However, in 1990, there was actually a large gain in population in the 18-34 age bracket. Then in 2000, the trend shifted and the youth exodus clearly began with the 18-34 bracket seeing a sizable drop. So, it seems the 2012 results bulleted above aren’t simply due to an anomaly or baby boom. This exodus has been going on for at least 13 years, likely longer.

All that said, looking at whole cities only tells part of the story…

Urban Zip code vs. Urban Zip Code Results

I chose to look at urban zip codes in San Diego county because, arguably, young professionals like me are the lifeblood of such neighborhoods. We love the locally-owned restaurants and bars, the walkability, and the historic character of urban settings. Furthermore, many singles and couples in the 18-34 age group don’t yet have kids, and the housing types in urban neighborhoods are typically more compatible with this lifestyle.

As a result, I decided to compare Downtown Escondido’s 92025 zip code to four other notable urban zip codes in San Diego county.

Percentage of population gained or lost in the 18-34 age group vs. the 0-17 age group:

  • 92025 (Downtown Escondido):
    10.56% loss
  • 92008 (Downtown Carlsbad):
    34.86% gain
  • 92101 (San Diego’s Gaslamp, Little Italy, and East Village):
    396.21% gain
  • 92103 (San Diego’s Hillcrest & Mission Hills):
    169.11% gain
  • 92104 (San Diego’s North Park):
    77.49% gain

I was shocked to see these numbers. Much like Downtown Carlsbad’s 92008, I absolutely expected Downtown Escondido’s 92025 to post a percentage gain vs. the rest of the city. Sadly though, the drop was bigger than the city-wide percentage.

The fact that 92025 sees such a big perentage drop from 0-17 to 18-34 is a troubling statistic that could explain why Downtown Escondido is often so quiet with businesses shuttered. Remember: My 18-34 age group that loves these urban downtowns also consists of a lot of singles and couples who don’t yet have kids (vs. the 35+ group). Young professionals without kids will have more disposable income to spend at bars, restaurants, and retail shops. Without those young professionals, those kinds of locally-owned businesses will struggle.

I think these numbers prove that, if we really want to see Downtown Escondido succeed, we need to do everything we can to make it more appealing to people in the 18-34 age bracket.

So the Exodus is real... What's the cause and the solution?

Let's find out in the third article in the series: Solving the Escondido Youth Exodus: Jobs...

Join the discussion! 4 comments so far...

  1. Everyone wants a better life for their children. The quality of life for kids centers around the quality of the schools.

    Comment by Gina Gillie on June 10, 2013 at 8:07 PM

  2. has the possibility of youth between 18 and say 22 leaving home to go to college been considered? it is quite usual for youth to "leave home" to go to college in another town. The lumping of 18-34 is quite a large range and, in my opinion, considering that over 25 or 30 they are married and raising children. Is there a more comprehensive look at smaller age groups?

    Comment by ConnieSue Dickinson on June 10, 2013 at 8:25 PM

  3. Also I think you need to consider the cost of living for most of the young people. I know that my husband and I both grew up near the coast, we could never afford the price of the homes there, so we headed north east to find a community that we could afford. I know may of my friends here in Esco have had their children relocating to Temecula and beyond for affordable housing. Each California generation seems to get pushed out further and further with the cost of living in such a delightful area.

    I also do think Escondido City needs to encourage more business into the downtown that cater to a younger age. We need more clothing, gift, restaurants...not more hair salons, massage and tattoo parlors.

    Comment by Tehara Tweed on June 12, 2013 at 7:13 PM

  4. Connie, when youth between ages of 18 and 22 leave Escondido and go to college, do you think they still considered residents of Escondido if their parents live here and claim them as dependents? Considering that many students return home during holidays, they could very well spend 1/4 to 1/3 of the year in Escondido. I suppose we do need a more specific breakdown of numerical data.

    Tehara, I agree that the city does not need more businesses like hair salons, massage and tattoo parlors.

    I would be interested in a survey of the number of students who leave for college and return. Perhaps they don't return because of lack of job opportunities in their field. There are mostly houses in Escondido. Perhaps there are limited or unappealing housing opportunities for single persons (apartments, condos, townhouses). Also, there are limited socializing or entertainment centers - places for the young to congregate, thriving forums for the exchange of ideas and creative events.

    Escondido is known for it's historical celebrations (i.e. Cruisin Grand) but young people are not really excited about that. Escondido is really family friendly but young 20 somethings are not looking to raise a family right now - they just want to meet people (bars, etc.). Escondido looks really conservative... I'll leave it at that.

    I would like to see more entrepreneurial encouragement, especially for community building initiatives like the community garden! It would be great if we could replicate some movements or events seen in LA/NYC, such as close down streets for walking/biking events (CicLAvie) or convert parks into mini water parks - more fountains where kids/pets can play! (our summer days are considerably hotter than the coast)

    Comment by Nancy Davong on June 23, 2013 at 12:40 PM

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