WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – While many blame Westchester County’s high cost of living and lack of night life for the mass exodus of young people since 2000 – a trend known as “youth flight” – a new study links the largest losses to the lack of diversity in those communities.
The Community Housing Innovations study looked at U.S. Census data from 2000 and American Community Survey data from 2007-2011 in Westchester and Long Island. It shows the biggest loss of 25-to-34-year-olds have happened in the wealthiest communities with the least affordable housing.
They are topped by Rye at 63 percent, Pound Ridge at 58 percent, Lewisboro at 54 percent and Scarsdale at 52 percent.
The study says that greatest losses have happened in communities with an African-American population of less than five percent.
Overall, 13 percent of that age group has left the county, compared to increases of .5-percent in residents aged 35-to-44 and 57 percent in those aged 45-54, according to U.S. Census data.
The report concludes that restrictions on affordable multi-family housing threaten the regional economy.
However, Ned McCormack, spokesman for Westchester County, disagrees with the study's use and interpretation of data. He said its 5.5-percent unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the state.
“What the data tells you is that people in Westchester are having their children later,” McCormack said. “That’s reflected in the fact that our public schools have been growing in the last 10 years. They're up 2.5 percent overall.”
It is also reflected in individuals like John Jay senior Luke Krantz of South Salem. After college, he said he would like to move to a city, but could see himself moving back to Westchester when he is older.
"It's definitely not a bad place to be," he said.
Many Westchester residents say the main reason young people leave is because it's just too expensive.
Scott Schonberg, 30, lives in Lewisboro, but plans to move to New York City once a law enforcement job comes through. Once that happens, he said, “Like everyone else, I’m gone.”
Lifelong Westchester resident Eric Weintraub, 37, is moving to Florida on Saturday, saying he wants a better quality of life and fewer taxes. He grew up in Armonk and then Bedford and attended both John Jay Middle School and Fox Lane High School.
The current White Plains resident said he wants to get out before getting tied down. His friend, Brant Bloom, said he has a home in Ridgefield, Conn., that is now worth half of what he paid for it, along with a daughter in college.
“These guys are exiting because they see no future,” Bloom said of those in their 20s and 30s. “They see their parents barely holding onto their homes.
“I don’t think there’s anything to keep young people here,” he said.
The study points out that the 10 Westchester communities that have lost more than 20 percent of their 25-to-34 demographic are all named in the county’s affordable housing settlement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).