As a man in my mid-twenties I often feel like I'm in the minority simply because I run into very few people in my age group these days. Maybe part of that is because I don't get out enough, but I think it has more to do with the fact that people in their twenties are so few and far between in Essex County. Data from the 2000 Census indicates that people ages 20-29 make up roughly 13.5 percent of the U.S. population. In Essex County, that figure is more like 10 percent. Cut off the top five years and the difference is even more drastic: 7 percent nationally compared to 4.8 percent in the county for ages 20-24. Comparing the 2000 Census with the 1990 one shows another trend. While the population of the county had risen slightly over that 10-year period, there were over 1,200 less 20-somethings in Essex County in 2000. Those who have been around here long enough dont need a census to tell them that young people are leaving. Why is it that so many of our young people ship out after finishing high school? There are many factors, the availability of jobs and housing being two of the most prominent. Institutions that offer post-secondary education in Essex County are also sparse. People in their 20s are seeking opportunity, something that is not easily found here. The concern goes beyond my desire to relate with my peers. By itself, having such a small percentage of young adults is an economic problem for the county, and the apparent exodus of young adults is a problem statewide. Young professionals add a valuable element to the tax base, and If the current trend continues as the already aging county population grows older, the county will likely find it even harder to maintain many of its services. Matt Bosley is the editor for the Valley News and Tri-Lakes Today newspapers. He can be reached at 873-6368 x216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.