When Christina Caldwell moved back to her native Miami after living out west for six years, she planned to remain. But after two years of dead-end jobs as a bartender and receptionist, she left for California for good. She now makes more than $100,000 a year at a post-production company in Venice Beach.
I would never, ever move back to Miami, she says.
Christina is not alone: South Florida is losing young people in droves, according to recent national and local studies. The areas high unemployment rate, lack of innovative jobs and huge income gaps have created a perfect storm that many young people are unwilling to wait out.
One study by the Brookings Institute ranks South Florida as fifth among the top five metro areas losing residents in the 25-34 year-old demographic group along with New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The study, released in October, looked at six years worth of data, from 2005-2010, from the Census Bureaus American Community Survey to rank 51 U.S. metropolitan areas by annual average net migration.
The Miami Herald asked members of this group why so many opted to leave, using an online database of sources who are part of the Public Insight Network .
There werent that many opportunities here, said Victor Thompson, 33.
Thompson, who grew up in Miami-Dade, went to Florida International University and started his tech career in South Florida at a local Yahoo.com office in Coral Gables.
When he outgrew the local tech industry, he took a position with Sony as lead producer for Crackle Movies en Español, a move that required relocation to California. Hes going in January with his wife and newborn daughter, although somewhat reluctantly.
Its tough to realize that you have to leave your home to stay in your job, he said.
At 10 percent, South Floridas unemployment rate is much higher than the countrys 8.6 percent, making it more difficult for first-time job seekers to penetrate the local job market.
The area also has one of the smallest shares of tech jobs, lagging most other competing metro areas, according to a study commissioned by Miami-Dades economic development agency, the Beacon Council. The councils study, released earlier this month, also shows that South Florida trails behind in innovation and young professionals.
I cant think of one friend in South Florida who has a successful career, said Lauren Hord, 31, who moved back to Seattle in August after trying to settle in her native South Florida numerous times.
This time, she says, shes not coming back.
All of my high school friends with successful careers are in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, said Hord, who attended Pine Crest, a Broward private school with a stellar reputation.
The Beacon Council study supports Hords conclusion.
Despite South Floridas high concentration of college students, the region has fewer young professionals compared to competing metro areas nationwide. The young professionals who remain have a lower educational attainment than those in most other competing metros. For instance, 27.8 percent of South Floridas residents have a bachelors degree or higher, compared with 37.4 percent in Seattles metro area, according to the Beacon Council study.