'Brain Drain' Surprise: Cleveland vs. Chicago

Comparing the demographic changes of Cleveland and Chicago, the results might surprise you: “Cleveland (Cuyahoga County) is experiencing brain gain. Chicago (Cook County) has brain drain.”
March 15, 2014, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Rudy Balasko

Jim Russell has an affinity for “ironic demography,” which he works at along with Richey Piiparinen. Their counter-intuitive findings about the population dynamics of Cleveland compared to Chicago have attracted a lot of attention recently. Enough so that Piiparinen was recently appointed the head of the Center for Population Dynamics in the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.

Russell cites February Census data to make the case for Cleveland’s success in recent years. In fact, Cleveland has proven more attractive than Chicago at attracting well-educated, high earners. “As the Great Recession churned job prospects for many, Cook County lost about 13,000 residents with six-figure household incomes to other places,” and “[between] 2007 and 2011, Chicago and its immediate suburbs also ended up with about 10,000 fewer residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher…”

Cleveland on the other hand: “The census estimates show that Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, gained about 3,450 more highly educated people than it lost.”

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Published on Thursday, March 13, 2014 in Pacific Standard
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