Highly educated cities also the highest-earning

According to census data released Thursday, regions with the most skilled and highly paid workers continue to widen their advantages over less well-endowed locales.  The Wall Street Journal provides a synopsis of other findings in the data:

  • The U.S. added 27 million people over the decade, but metro areas—defined as the collection of small cities and suburbs that surround an urban core with at least 50,000 people—accounted for most of the population gain.
  • The 10 cities with the highest share of their population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher saw that share jump by an average of 4.6 percentage points over the decade, while the bottom 10 saw their share grow by only 3.1 percentage points.
  • Those higher-educated areas also tend to be the highest-earning. In the San Francisco metro area, where 43% of adult residents have a college degree or higher, the median household income stands at $73,027. Nationwide, 28.2% of people aged 25 and older have a college degree, and the median household income is $50,046.
  • Median incomes fell almost everywhere in the decade, but to a lesser degree in metro areas with higher levels of income. The top 10 highest-earning cities saw inflation-adjusted median incomes fall an average of 6.5% from 2000 to 2010—from $75,110 to $70,201—while the median for the bottom 10 metro areas fell 10.8%—from $46,380 to $41,378.

The pattern of smart cities becoming more dominant is a departure from past trends, noted Edward Glaeser, an economist at Harvard University. Through the first part of the 20th century, jobs and wealth clustered around places like Detroit and Cleveland that had large concentrations of capital and industry. Today, a city’s overall education level and supply of higher-skilled labor are the big drivers of its economic success.

The online article provides an interesting interactive chart of statistics for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  In 2010, Iowa ranked 21st among the states in ratio of college graduates to those with less than a high school diploma.  A good jump from 32nd in 1990, but a much less-spectacular hop from 22nd in 2000.  If you are looking at surrounding states, however, Iowa is running middle of the pack, ahead of Missouri (31st), Illinois (25th) and South Dakota (23rd), but behind Wisconsin (18th), Nebraska (13th) and Minnesota (1st).  In fact, Madison, Wisconsin and the Omaha metro area experienced the second and sixth largest increases, respectively, among all metro areas in the percentage growth in the number of adults with college degrees.

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