Does New Data Upend Old Assumptions About the Knowledge Economy?

Joel Kotkin looks at a new analysis of Census data by Wendell Cox that may upend the "conventional wisdom" that "talented, highly-skilled and highly educated people" are clustering in America's coastal cities.
August 10, 2012, 12pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Using data that depicts the change in the number of people with bachelor's degrees in the 51 largest metropolitan statistical areas in America from 2000-2010, Kotkin concludes that, "In the past decade, the metropolitan areas that have enjoyed the fastest growth in their college-educated populations have not been the places known as hip, intellectual hotbeds." Hence, he finds that rather than clustering in select "hip" cities, "brainpower is spreading out."

"In reality," Kotkin argues, "skilled, college-educated people are increasingly now scattered throughout the country, and often not where you'd expect them. For example, Charlotte, N.C., Columbus, Ohio, Kansas City and Atlanta now boast about the same per capita number of college grads as Portland and Chicago, and have higher per capita concentrations of grads over the age of 25 than Los Angeles."

It probably isn't shocking to see that the fastest growing cities over the last decade (Las Vegas, Raleigh, Austin, Charlotte, Riverside) also grew by the highest numbers of college grads. Kotkin attributes the growth of college grads in these areas to three key factors that invariably attract any American - "lower home prices, better business climate, job opportunities." 

"Looking ahead," Kotkin concludes, "we can expect this trend to continue, particularly as the current bulge of millennial graduates mature and start to look for affordable places to live and work. Regions that maintain strong job growth, and keep their housing costs down, are likely to keep gaining on those metropolitan areas celebrated for being the winners of the race for educated people."

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Published on Thursday, August 9, 2012 in New Geography
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