WASHINGTON - AMERICAN cities seeking fast growth thought they had the answer in the young, single professional. But - unlike Singapore - many of these cities are not family-friendly, so when singles marry and raise kids, they move home, dashing growth trajectories.
The result is that big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco lose out, and smaller cities like Houston, Dallas or Charlotte gain.
The lesson for urban planners seems to be that family-friendly cities win over the cool, hip cities, said Mr Joel Kotkin, a noted expert on urban economic trends.
'The critical ability to lure skilled workers - long term - lies not with bright lights and nightclubs, but with ample economic opportunities, affordable housing and family-friendly communities not too distant from work,' he said.
'Family-friendly metropolitan regions have seen the biggest net gains of professionals, largely because they not only attract workers, but they also retain them through their 30s and 40s.'
He noted that urban centres that have been traditional favourites for young singles, such as Chicago, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, have experienced below-average job and population growth since 2000.
San Francisco and Chicago have lost residents since 2000. New York City and Los Angeles County, both of which draw immigrants, have had negligible population growth in the last two years as middle-class families stream out.
His latest find, to be published in March, is that New York is losing more and more young families with children.
'You have what's been going on in other cities - the people staying are childless, and the people leaving have families,' he told the New York Observer, which reported the trend.
Surveys also showed that, contrary to what is thought, more than 80 per cent of Americans still marry, and the vast majority have children.
Mr Kotkin, the author of The City: A Global History, said Singapore has an 'underestimated secret weapon'.
'Its family-friendly image is a big plus. Many expatriates speak of this and it is a factor in attracting and retaining talent,' he said.