Kites fly above the Portland skyline during the 6th annual Bug Light Kite Festival Saturday, May 16, 2015, as seen from Spring Point Ledge. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)

Kites fly above the Portland skyline during the 6th annual Bug Light Kite Festival Saturday, May 16, 2015, as seen from Spring Point Ledge. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)

What draws young college graduates to a new city? Are economic opportunities the driving force? Or is it a decision driven by a city’s quality of life?

The American Institute for Economic Research, a nonprofit, non-partisan research institute, wanted to find out. To do so it created an index to determine the key factors in a young college grad’s decision to move, and the top destinations they’re choosing.

The short of it: Portland, Maine, ranked No. 5 in the midsize-metros category (metro areas with populations between 500,000 and 999,999).

What the institute found is that once young college graduates — which they define as those 22 to 35 years old (aka Millennials) with at least a bachelor’s degree — have made the decision to move, they’re influenced more by the quality of life and a city’s amenities than economic conditions.

In the institute’s analysis, economic factors — labor market conditions, living costs, and earnings — only account for 32 percent of the migration of young college grads, while quality-of-life factors — education levels of residents, car dependency, places to eat and drink, and ethic and racial diversity — account for 68 percent of the migration.

“Economic opportunity is always an important reason for moving to a new place,” the report notes. “Millennials are demonstrating that while economic factors continue to play an important role in this decision, they are also seeking the amenities that give a city its special cultural and social appeal.

“Just like the Dutch who settled in the Hudson Valley, the Irish who settled in Boston, or the Swedes and Norwegians who moved to Minnesota and the Dakotas, these workers are moving to places with large populations of people just like themselves: young and educated. This is the single most important factor in explaining post-college destinations,” the report states.

Not surprisingly, the country’s biggest cities — Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Boston and New York — attract a good share of the young college grads.

In the midsize-metro category, Portland was beat only by Bridgeport, Connecticut, which ranked No. 1; Honolulu, Hawaii; Provo, Utah; and Albany, New York. Portland falls into the midsize-metro category because the Portland metropolitan area, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, includes York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties. Combined, those three counties had an estimated population of 523,552 in 2014.

The report notes that its findings run counter to traditional economic theory, which would say that economic factors are the driving force behind a young person’s decision to move. This reality promises to have an impact on the cities and workplaces where theses Millennials are landing.

“When the largest living generation values jobs that provide personal fulfillment, cities that provide cultural and social opportunities, and a work/life balance, their tastes and preferences are likely to affect the workplace, the city in which they live, and the overall culture that shapes everyday life,” the report concludes.

I think this is something we have seen at work in Portland over the last 10 years.