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Generational hot spots are booming
COMMENT
Bernard Salt, demographer
June 14, 2007

THERE are places on the Australian continent that must exude demographic pheromones, because they are clearly irresistible to specific generational species. Just as koalas favour living amid eucalypts, such as the delicious E. camaldulensis, so ageing baby boomers, brooding Generation Xers and hipster Gen Ys also prefer their own distinctive habitats.
But where are these boomer 'burbs, these Xer hideaways, these wonderful Gen-Y whereabouts? Where does each generation comprise the highest proportion of local residents? And what are the common denominators that so effectively attract one age group to one town over another?

Baby boomers born over the 15 years to 1961 comprised 20 per cent of the Australian population at June 2005. But in the West Australian treechange town of Toodyay, 85km northeast of Perth, this proportion is 28 per cent: no other town contains a higher proportion of baby boomers. Note to Bob Dylan: include the Toodyay Civic Hall in your next tour of Australia.

Toodyay contains many of the elements considered irresistible to treechanging baby boomers: 90-minute car access to a capital-city job market; proximity to (Swan Valley) vineyards; pretty countryside; historic streetscape. In fact, the whole town has been classified by the National Trust. Perhaps local baby boomers also should be classified along with the buildings.

Other boomer bunkers include Queensland's Shire of Miriam Vale, centred on the lifestyle town of Agnes Water, and the adjacent inland Shire of Kolan, where baby boomers comprise 27 per cent of the population in both communities. Seachanging boomers are attracted to the lifestyle of Agnes Water whereas Kolan's boomers are more likely to be a residual community that has resulted from the exit of others.

Byron Bay always figures prominently in any national screening of baby boomers: 25 per cent of Byron's locals are baby boomers. They arrived as teenagers for the Aquarius Festival in 1973 and they haven't moved on.

Generation-Xers born over the 15 years to 1976 favour places of work over the boomer's lifestyle locales.

Some 22 per cent of the Australian population are Xers, but in the Pilbara's Shire of Ashburton this proportion rises to 32 per cent. Ashburton, of course, contains mining communities such as Paraburdoo and Mt Tom Price. Young Xer muscle is needed to mine the mines on the western frontier.

Other extreme Xer communities include a littoral zone positioned between the childless city centre and the family-friendly suburbia. In Melbourne's City of Port Phillip centred on St Kilda and in Sydney's Leichhardt, Xers exceed 31 per cent of the local population.

Thirty-something Xers have claimed the coolest parts of the inner city for themselves, although I do understand that suburban boomers are begrudgingly granted transit visas.

Generation Y - born over the 15 years to 1991 - comprise 21 per cent of the Australian population. Gen Ys are an unsociable lot: boomer towns peak at 28 per cent of the local population in Toodyay; Xers top-out at 32 per cent in Ashburton; but Gen Ys command a 49 per cent share of all residents within the City of Melbourne. No other municipality in Australia has a higher proportion of Gen Ys in its population base than does Melbourne.
This either means that Gen Y likes to cluster near other Gen Ys. (And given their predilection for pre-marital partnering you can understand why.) Or this might also mean that other generations cannot stand to live near Generation Y, and move out as soon as they move in.

In the City of Perth, Generation Y comprises 41 per cent of residents. In the City of Sydney and in the City of Adelaide this proportion exceeds 32 per cent.
Ys are mightily predisposed to clustering: they all want to be part of the Friends set. The common force linking these Gen-Y hot spots is access to tertiary and technical education as well as to urban infrastructure that grooves up the city's edge such as Sydney's Oxford Street, Melbourne's Chapel Street and Brisbane's Fortitude Valley. Even Adelaide's East End has an edge about it. And then of course Perth has its Carillion.

Gen Y is clearly at its most comfortable in the company of its own. And perhaps this is why young people in rural Australia feel isolated when surrounded by old-fart boomers and brooding Xers, to say nothing of really old people.

Boomers in such places, like the Shire of Kolan, expect to comprise no more than a quarter of the community. And to some extent the same applies to Xers.

But Gen Y doesn't like generational diversity; they prefer convergence: it delivers the primal brine from which relationships are drawn.

There is another observation that can be made about generational hot spots, especially within the city.

Generational diversity rises with distance from the city centre. In fact, the most closed communities are those of the inner city.

Here are places favoured by the young and the childless: children, the middle-aged and even the elderly mix it up "out in the burbs".

This raises an interesting point. Are the residents of the Cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide less tolerant of suburbia because their judgment is delivered from within a community uniquely dominated by a single generation? Perhaps what's needed in the city centre is not so much affordable housing but rather a greater diversity of generations.

Bernard Salt is a KPMG partner

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21899975-25658,00.html
 

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lucky i read this, i had passed over it a few times and was about to post the same article under it's actual title. interesting but true!
 
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