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The Numbers Behind Chicago's Polar Vortex Brain Drain

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Chicagoans love complaining about the weather, but a Tribune article suggests that many are doing more than complaining about Chiberia. Take the example of Saya Hillman, who runs Mac 'n Cheese Productions — she says she can count 42 friends who have left town in the "Mass Exodus of 2014." Many claimed weather was a prime factor, suggesting the deep freeze may chill Chicago's economic growth as twenty- and thirty-somethings seek to live in more moderate climates. Do the numbers culled from her circle of friends portend a wider trend? According to Census Bureau data, the city's population just grew by 0.2 percent in 2013, falling well behind other big cities that are experiencing booms credited to a cultural shift back towards urban living, and that's before one of the coldest years on record. But blaming it all on the weather becomes a slightly more complicated argument.
There are a few ways to look at the concept of a polar vortex-induced brain drain. The movement of Millennials might indicate a tipping point, and conventional wisdom suggests a hip urban center such as Chicago must be a big draw. But, according to Forbes, the metro areas with the biggest growth in millennial populations are Sun Belt cities such as San Antonio and Miami. Chicago's population of 20-29 years old has actually remained unchanged, well below the 4% growth rate seen in the nation as a whole. Any brain drain would mean high-tech and creative industries are suffering, too. But Chicago has the sixth best rate of tech industry growth in the country, ahead of traditional centers like Seattle. While there are plenty of intertwining cultural and demographic factors at play, these mixed messages suggest it's too early to call it a climate-induced mass-migration. That is, perhaps, until we see how this winter goes.

·Millennial Boomtowns: Where The Generation Is Clustering (It's Not Downtown) [Forbes]
·The Mass Exodus of 2014: Is Chicago losing its 30-somethings to the cold? [Tribune]