London is getting younger:
The map above, via Neal Hudson of Savills, shows London boroughs by change in their mean age from 1981 to 2011. The map below shows mean ages as of 2011.
In contrast, the UK as a whole is getting older. (The chart below from ONS showing median age is an imperfect comparison but it makes the point.)
I asked Mr Hudson for the maps after I saw this chart, which he tweeted yesterday:
It shows net internal migration flows in and out of London since 1999, by age bands.
At least since Michael Goldfarb’s incendiary op-ed in the New York Times, there has been discussion about a “great exodus” from London. This chart shows that there is nothing new in recent history about net internal emigration from the capital; young people come for work and to find love, and they leave – if everything goes to plan – with a job, a mortgage adviser, and a partner. The ageing of Bromley, Bexley and Havering, all suburban outer boroughs, could be a sign of that trend in action.
What keeps London’s population growing overall is international immigration, and, more importantly, the city’s birth rate compared with its death rate. These trends, combined with internal migration patterns, are pushing down the average age.
The difference in the levels of comings and goings since the financial crisis also hints at the acceleration of inner London’s gentrification, as the Economist’s Daniel Knowles has observed. From 2009, net internal emigration decreases quite dramatically, which could reflect: the relative health of the capital’s jobs market compared with the rest of the country, the difficulty in getting a mortgage for that house in the suburbs, changing business location decisions, the quality of negronis and flat whites in inner London boroughs, and improving inner-city schools.
Whatever the reason, the pressure valve of emigration was not working as before. For another article, I performed a back of the envelope calculation using ONS data that found how in the five years before 2008, an average of 10,700 more 20 and 30-somethings left London for the rest of the country than arrived. Then, in the five years afterwards, an average of 15,400 more twenty and thirty somethings arrived than left.
All the above – and of course house price data – is evidence of a “great inversion”, a trend common in the US, whereby London’s inner areas – such as Hackney and Lambeth – are gentrifying and becoming younger quicker than the surrounding boroughs.
If we must talk of an “exodus”, then, the clearest pattern is an increase in poverty in the outer boroughs and the gentrification of parts of inner London. Changes to housing benefit and other “welfare reforms” are accelerating this trend. The city’s highest unemployment rate used to be in Tower Hamlets, but now it is in Barking and Newham.
It will be interesting to see whether the recovery of the mortgage market and Help to Buy changes these patterns. Based upon an unscientific sample of my friends and a few delivery men, Walthamstow, for example, is receiving a lot of interest from young professionals who currently rent in zones one and two who are now looking to buy.
But even if this happens it might not change how London as a whole keeps on getting younger, since that is also driven by international immigration and birth rates. The other “exodus” is therefore an age-based one. The inner capital is, in a sense, becoming more like the rest of the world: diverse and young, albeit with a disproportionate number of residents who actively choose to read Monocle.
The exceptions are Kensington & Chelsea and the City of London. As can be seen on the first map, their average ages have increased slightly since 1981. This makes sense – they are expensive, home to the established wealthy, full of great doctors, and popular with older foreign buyers. They are perhaps a sign of how, although young people are compromising over living space elsewhere in London, eventually price wins out.