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Where to live ?

Since 1950, the disparity between incomes and home prices has steadily widened to the point that many urban areas have become largely unaffordable to the middle-class workers who once inhabited them. Economists at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia have coined the term "superstar cities" to refer to the likes of New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston. "Even large metropolitan areas might evolve into communities that are affordable only by the rich, just [like] exclusive resort areas," wrote the economists Joseph Gyourko, Christopher Mayer and Todd Sinai in a 2013 article.

As the superstar cities have become unattainable, the middle class is increasingly finding refuge in places like Philadelphia or Nashville, Denver or Charlotte, N.C. An example of "the people who are getting killed," Renn said, "is the old traditional blue-collar Queens person who's now getting squeezed with taxes and with housing costs. It's clear they don't fit into the vision of the city. They're basically realizing, Hey, I can go to Charlotte and live like a king on a truck driver's salary."

Portland's story is slightly different in that many of its immigrants have come in search of a different kind of wealth. Most people, after all, can't willingly up and move to a new city for -- rather than a job opportunity -- some ephemeral or lofty ideals about homesteading and locally grown kale. But quite a few Portlanders have done so. "As our culture and expectations grow, decadence rises," Albouy said. "We're not the hungry immigrant nation we used to be. We're more into meaning, into jobs that find fulfillment. And at least some people are willing to accept lower pay to go somewhere they care about." According to Joe Cortright, the president of Impresa, a Portland-based consulting firm on regional economies, young people are increasingly telling themselves, "I'm going to move somewhere and pursue my career," rather than, "I'm going to pursue my career and go wherever it takes me." For "the beer, bikes and Birkenstocks people," as Cortright put it, that means Portland. Hale, for instance, had planned to move to New York, where he found plenty of listings for graphic-design jobs. Then, by chance, he and his wife visited a friend in Portland and fell in love. "Jobs are thinner here," he said. "But the intelligent urban planning makes my heart sing."


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