Is Portland really where young people retire?

Associated Press Modified: September 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm •  Published: September 19, 2012
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland may not be "a city where young people go to retire," but it's the place they go to be underemployed, a new study found.

A famous quip by Fred Armisen on the television show "Portlandia" led Portland State University researchers to investigate the reality behind the comment. The quirky IFC network series pokes fun at the Oregon city's many eccentricities.

The researchers' review found that Portland is a magnet for the young and college educated from across the country, even though a disproportionate share of them are working part-time or holding jobs that don't require a degree.

In short, young college grads are moving here, and staying, because they like the city's amenities and culture, not because they're chasing jobs. Their participation in the labor force tracks with other cities, but they make 84 cents on the dollar when compared to the average of the 50 largest metropolitan areas, the research found.

"You put all of that together, and it suggests that young people are coming here and they're trying to make the best of it," said Greg Schrock, an assistant professor in urban studies at Portland state. "They're committed to working, they're committed to trying to make ends meet, but they're more committed to living in Portland."

Young people are drawn by a relatively low cost of living, a vibrant arts scene and a collegial, laid-back atmosphere. With abundant public transit, a vibrant bicycle culture and many walkable neighborhoods, there's no need for a car.

"I'm pretty content being able to support myself on a minimum-wage job," said Deanna Horton, 22, who graduated in May from Lewis & Clark college in Portland and is now working the front desk at a science museum. Horton doesn't have a driver's license, but she said the only time she's ever felt she needed one was when she moved across town.

A transplant from Syosset, N.Y., on Long Island, Horton said she'd love to have a more challenging and fulfilling job — but not enough to give up on a city that supports things like a neighborhood tool library, which gives residents free access to a wide variety of tools for carpentry, home improvement and gardening.

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