Place is more important than professional opportunities to college-educated people ages 25-34, according to a survey released today.

The Segmentation Co., a division of marketing consultancy Yankelovich Inc., conducted the online survey for CEOs for Cities, a network of mayors, corporate executives, university presidents, foundation officials and community leaders from major cities.

About 64 percent of respondents stated that they would look for a job in a place that they would like to live, with 36 percent stating that place was a secondary consideration when looking for a job, according to the report, “Attracting College-Educated Young Adults to Cities.”

About 69 percent of women respondents and 60 percent of men respondents said that place was a priority.

The survey results are based on online surveys conducted March 3-11 of 1,000 college-educated people ages 25-34.

About 42 percent of respondents said they would consider living in a downtown area, while 59 percent would consider living in a neighborhood near the downtown, 66 percent would consider living in a neighborhood within the city but not near the downtown, 70 percent would choose suburbs close to the city, 43 percent would choose suburbs far from the city, 45 percent would choose a small town and 34 percent would choose a rural area.

About 75 percent of respondents said they are likely to visit for a weekend before choosing a place to live, 72 percent would look at houses or apartments, 72 percent would talk to friends who currently live there, 67 percent would talk to family who live there and 65 percent would go to local Web sites.

About 49 percent said they would read a local newspaper, 47 percent would read magazine articles and “best places to live” lists, 46 percent would read books about the area, 43 percent would visit the convention or tourism board Web site, 42 percent would visit the Chamber of Commerce or its Web site, while 36 percent said they would visit for several weeks.

About 35 percent of respondents who grew up in the Northeast now live in the South, while 27 percent of respondents who grew up in the West now live in the South; 14 percent of residents who grew up in the Midwest now live in the West and 13 percent of respondents who grew up in the South now live in the West.

Among the other findings:

  • Basic quality of life issues (“clean and attractive,” “can live the life I want to lead,” “safe streets and neighborhoods,” “can afford to buy a home,” “lots of parks and green space”) ranked highest among attributes that young people looked for in a city.

  • A place that feels welcoming, offers professional opportunities, has reasonable commute times, access to excellent schools, is a great place to raise children and is a place people are proud to say they live in were among attributes young adults looked for in a city.

  • Lifestyle attributes are also important to this demographic. They prefer places where they can connect with others and have meaningful social interactions that are interesting and diverse and are environmentally responsible.

  • Knowledge of city attributes is limited. When asked where they would like to live, respondents were quick to answer. But when asked why, their reasons were vague, the survey revealed.

    Young adults rely most heavily on personal stories from friends and family to form their perceptions about a place. They also use the Internet and personal visits to shape their opinions.

“The good news for urban leaders is that these findings point to actions that they can take to make their cities more desirable to this demographic,” said Meredith Gilfeather, who directed the survey for Yankelovich.

Based on the survey results, the survey firm suggested some actions that community leaders can take to make their cities more attractive:

  • Make sure your city is clean, green, safe and inviting. The basic functions of government such as trash collection and keeping parks maintained and litter off the streets will go a long way to bringing and keeping people. While it is not the only factor, a city that doesn’t take care of the basics will likely be dismissed or overlooked by this demographic.

  • Highlight your downtown and close-in neighborhoods — young adults are 30 percent more likely than other Americans to live within three miles of a city’s center. This percentage has been increasing since 1980 in each of the top 50 metro areas in the U.S.

    Develop a compelling narrative about your city. Because young people have only vague notions of what a city is like, this poses an opportunity for a city to define and brand itself and market that image to young people.

  • Work with local stakeholders to build a dynamic Web presence that is appealing to tech and design-savvy young people and that accurately portrays your city’s narrative.

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