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Why do young people leave Lafayette? Jobs, culture, housing

The gist: We asked, you answered. Over 100 young people — and some not-so-young people — weighed in on why they would leave Lafayette. 

98% of participants considered leaving Lafayette at some point. This isn’t a scientific study, but it lines up with a recent One Acadiana survey that found young people weren’t satisfied with life in Lafayette. 

What were the big issues? Jobs, culture and housing. Here’s what they had to say. (Quotes edited for brevity and clarity.)

Jobs. The job market in Lafayette isn’t robust enough to support the next generation of up and coming professionals. Students are looking to head out of state to begin their careers. When they do find a job in their field, the pay isn’t enough to cover the rising cost of living in the city.

“I actually left Lafayette when I was 17 to attend college in New Orleans. I am 26 now. I attempted to return once I graduated college at 21. I had major difficulties finding a job especially in a creative setting.” – Layna Juneau, 26

Culture. While Lafayette’s unique culture is appealing and folks feel tied to it, it seems as though the preservation of tradition comes with stagnant attitudes on modern issues. Young people are finding that the deep-rooted church influence, racism, homophobia, and a generally conservative local government aren’t places for them to feel free to be authentically themselves.

“As a gay married man I do not feel or see diversity and inclusion in this community. …My husband and I are young professionals now looking for a new place to call home. I was born and raised here and very little has changed.” – Andre Carr, 30

Housing. Rent prices have soared and young people are feeling the pressure, especially when combined with low ages. While our unhoused population continues to grow, there aren’t enough resources to support those struggling.

“Lower rents and housing costs: This isn’t Houston and Lafayette is overpriced compared to the average wage job.” – Anonymous

Other themes? Education, community, infrastructure, the Northside and leadership – well, Josh Guillory.

  • Education: Additionally,  higher ed opportunities  are limited, as Lafayette doesn’t have a Law program, Dental Program, Veterinary program, etc.
  • Events/Community Engagement: Lafayette feels “boring”. With a broader culture that encourages alcohol consumption, it feels like drinking is the only thing to do.
  • Infrastructure: The car-centric layout of the city doesn’t reflect the realities of how people traverse the city. People want to see improvements for the vast majority of citizens that are walking, biking, and taking public transportation.
  • The Northside: There needs to be a unification of the city with an equal amount of resources and support. The Northside, an area that is predominantly black and low-income feels barren and overlooked while the Southside, predominantly white and upper-class, flourishes with an abundance of businesses, restaurants and stores.
  • Josh Guillory: The performance of our mayor-president has been, let’s say, unsatisfactory in the eyes of these younger constituents. More broadly, they say having leadership that reflects their values and ideals would make them want to stay.

Young folks don’t necessarily want to leave Lafayette. But it feels impossible to stay. Their message: We need leadership that will seriously consider changes for the next generation – otherwise, there won’t be one. Disagree with what we’ve heard so far? Still want to weigh in? Tell us what you think here.