Written by Brian Points
Anybody who works in the arts knows that to craft an effective advocacy message, you must go beyond the art for art’s sake argument. One method is to link your message to a core societal theme, a potential tie-in that concerns both businesspeople and politicians. Cities with thriving arts scenes are positioned to help solve the millennial talent attraction issue faced by regions everywhere.
Business leaders and government officials alike are concerned with how to attract enough young talent to help local economies continue growing. Millennials compose greater than 3 out of every 10 workers in the United States. They are challenging to attract and retain because they have high employer and community expectations (Buckley, 2015). Millennials expect employers to provide a good work-life balance, abundant professional development options, work flexibility, and high societal engagement; yet, at the same time, this population is not highly loyal to employers (Deloitte, 2017). To complement their desired work-life balance, millennials also want to live in places with strong job markets, affordable cost of living, good transportation systems, vibrant downtowns, and a host of other amenities (Abodo, 2017) and (Sakaria, 2013).
But what about the arts? Do millennials want to live in places with vibrant arts communities? Instinctually, most of us would likely say yes. But, to date, surprisingly little research has been done to prove this assertion. As a step in this direction, we have conducted an analysis looking at the correlation between regions’ artistic vitality and attractiveness to millennials for 75 of the largest metro areas in the United States.
What the Numbers Say
Two datasets are required to complete this analysis:
- To measure artistic vitality, we used WESTAF’s Creative Vitality Index (or CVI score), a composite of numerous variables, including employment in artistic jobs, charitable contributions to artistic nonprofits and other factors. The CVI scores the United States average at 1 point. For reference those regions with a CVI lower than 1, they are less creative than the U.S. average.
- To approximate attractiveness to millennials we used post-recession migration patterns for young adults (ages 25 through 34). Migration data are ultimately from the US Census Bureau’s Population Estimates program, but were acquired for this report from a report produced by the Census (Benetsky, Burd, Rapino, 2015).
Millennials are generally characterized as individuals born between 1982 and 2004. People on the higher end of that age range were intentionally selected because millennials in the 18 to 24-year-old group are much more likely to relocate in order to attend college, which is oftentimes an impermanent move.
Predictive Values Compared to Actual CVI Values
The analysis indicates that there is a strong and statistically significant relationship between these two variables. To make the relationship more directly interpretable, when the percentage of millennial-aged relocators increases by 1%, the CVI increase by a corresponding 0.4 points. The relationship becomes clearer when looking at middle ranking cities that have neither exceptionally high nor exceptionally low CVI scores. For example, for metropolitan areas such as Tampa, Florida and Portland, Oregon, millennial migration rate turns out to be a very good predictor of CVI score.
Before we talk about what this means, it is equally important to specify what this does not mean. We cannot say that migration of millennials will stimulate a strong artistic economy, nor can we say that having a high CVI will draw more millennials to a given city. All we can conclude from this is that these two things— a region’s level of artsiness and the rate at which it attracts millennials—tend to cluster together.
Linking Your Message with the Problem
For those working for arts organizations, this means that you can make the claim that your organization can and should be part of the talent attraction conversation for your region. If you do a little searching, it will not be hard to find groups that are currently scrambling to solve the talent equation. These groups include organizations as diverse as Chambers of Commerce, economic development partnerships, State government, and industry associations, especially related to technology and healthcare.
What all stakeholders need to recall is that winning at talent attraction will not be solved by one player. It’s a basic point but one that can get lost by those who live in a certain place and who are already sold on the quality of life that they experience. Having a great public transit system does no good if there aren’t jobs to draw people downtown. Having a lot of jobs available accomplishes nothing if there are no restaurants, festivals and art galleries to make millennials feel at home.
Cities are struggling to put all these pieces together, despite having plenty of jobs to go around. This issue is particularly acute in the Midwest, which many millennials have abandoned in favor of Sun Belt cities. Metropolitans such as Indianapolis, Indiana and Columbus, Ohio have seen double-digit percentage employment growth since the end of the recession. Indianapolis for example has many of the amenities that millennials covet including a strong job market (2.5% unemployment), affordable housing (median home price of less than $115k), and a thriving city center (US BLS and Kiplinger). Despite these assets, Indianapolis is middling in terms of both millennial attraction (23% of in-migrators between 2010-2013). Why is that? One explanation could be its unremarkable CVI score of 0.94.
Too often we focus on getting the numbers or the presentation just right and can neglect the weightier issue of linking your data to an issue of societal importance. Though there is still space for researchers to explore the relationship between arts and millennial talent attraction, our basic analysis indicates that the link makes a strong argument. For representatives of arts organizations, this signals an opportunity to work with new organizations and speak to different audiences.
- Buckley, Patricia, P. Viechnicki, and A. Barua. “A new understanding of Millennials: Generational differences reexamined.” Deloitte University Press. October, 2015.
- Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (Firm). “The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey: winning over the next generation of leaders.” October, 2016.
- “Living the Millennial Dream.” ABODO Apartments. March 31, 2017. https://www.abodo.com/blog/living-millennial-dream/.
- Sakaria, Neela, and Natalie Stehfest. “Millennials and mobility: understanding the millennial mindset and new opportunities for transit providers.” No. Task 17, TCRP Project J-11. 2013.
- Benetsky, Megan J., Charlynn Burd, and Melanie Rapino, “Young Adult Migration: 2007–2009 to 2010–2012,” American Community Survey Reports, ACS-31, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2015.
- “Home Prices in 100 Top U.S. Metro Areas.” Www.kiplinger.com. Accessed September 30, 2015. http://www.kiplinger.com/tool/real-estate/T010-S003-home-prices-in-100-top-u-s-metro-areas/index.php.
- “Unemployment Rates for Metropolitan Areas.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed May 31, 2017. https://www.bls.gov/web/metro/laummtrk.htm.