Washington, D.C., is failing to attract a young and educated workforce, according to a recent survey from the Roadmap for the Washington Region’s Economic Future.
While D.C. is still the most popular first destination after graduation for Georgetown students, according to the Cawley Career Education Center, the study reports that recent graduates are increasingly moving to other cities.
Data for the study, collected from May to October 2015, aimed to identify D.C.’s opportunities and challenges in boosting its economic growth.
The study revealed that D.C. maintains a competitive advantage in its connectivity to the world, high quality of life and occupational specialization. However, qualitative conclusions suggest the District needs to rebrand itself as a good place to do business and improve living conditions for young professionals.
Ellen Harpel (SFS ’88), a business consultant who helped lead the study, pointed out that both job market prospects and living environments matter in enhancing the city’s competitiveness in appealing to young professionals.
“Keeping and attracting talent is critical. Our research suggests that the Washington region needs to continue to offer fantastic career opportunities, but also needs to focus on how to keep it a great place to live,” Harpel said.
According to the Roadmap, D.C.’s economy has grown on the basis of information and knowledge industries. From 2003 to 2014, the fastest-expanding industries were business and financial services at 38.9 percent, biology and health technology at 25.1 percent, legal, public, social and other advocacy services at 19 percent and science and security technology at 18.6 percent.
In a report by the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, D.C.’s job growth from 2014 to 2015 is slightly below 2 percent, which places the city in 10th place among the 15 cities with the largest job markets.
The lasting association between the city and federal government may be a negative factor in attracting workers. Conclusions in the Roadmap study suggest that the city develop nonfederally dependent and export-oriented industries to maintain its economic growth.
D.C.’s high population turnover rate may be linked to the city’s longtime focus on government and professional business activities. According to 2014 census records, D.C.’s ratio of residents who lived in a different state a year ago to the residents who stayed for more than one year was 0.09, compared to 0.01 for New York, 0.01 for California and 0.02 for Massachusetts.
Georgetown students, specifically, are increasingly headed to other cities after graduation. The Cawley Career Education Center’s annual senior class reports indicate that while the D.C.-Virginia-Maryland and the New York-New Jersey regions continue to be the top destinations for graduates, the number of those moving to California, Massachusetts, Illinois and Texas is steadily growing.
For example, since 2010, the percentage of graduating seniors moving to California has jumped from four to 7 percent. Massachusetts witnessed an increase from 2 percent to 5 percent and Illinois from one percent to three percent.
Despite the study’s findings, D.C. still boasts high educational attainment rates. Research from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce indicates that the city’s job market favors highly educated workers. Among the online advertisements for jobs in the District, 72 percent require a bachelor’s degree, compared with the national average at 48 percent.
“[The] D.C. market has always been a job market for college graduates … mainly because of the business in the federal government and the jobs in consulting and [financial] businesses,” Tamara Jayasundera, research professor and senior economist at the McCourt School of Public Policy, said.
Sidharth Sharma (SFS ’16) said the demographic trends from the Roadmap’s survey possibly reflect the city’s inability to generate a sense of belonging.
“People I know who are from the D.C. area, their parents moved here for something government-related, and they themselves do not plan on staying here,” Sharma said. “If I was interested in anything else besides government and international relations, I wouldn’t want to stay here.”
Other students said the strong focus on the government sector deters the city from developing a dynamic social atmosphere.
Javier Gonzales (SFS ’16), who hopes to move to New York City after graduation, expressed his desire to see more diversity in D.C.
“I think the city has a certain feel to it that doesn’t stand for cultural diversity,” Gonzales said. “It’s always been the center of government, the center of power, and it always attracts a certain kind of people.”
Emily Kent (COL ’16) also said she hopes to move to New York or London because of the cities’ cultural richness.
“When I’m in a place like New York or London, I feel like I am encountering so many things I can do as a person who lives there,” Kent said. “D.C. doesn’t feel like a cultural center to me.”
Maurice McCaulley (SFS ’16), however, knew he wanted to stay in D.C. after graduation after his junior year. He said he believes that while D.C. is a busy city, it still provides an atmosphere conducive to personal connections between people.
“You still have the chance to meet and network with people in a more genuine way.” McCaulley said. “[New York City] is too much, too impersonal, too fast.”
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