Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Growing Education Divide in Cities

(Click image for larger view.)

According to the New York Times, cities are increasingly divergent in terms of percentage of residents with college education:
College graduates are more unevenly distributed in the top 100 metropolitan areas now than they were four decades ago. More adults have bachelor’s degrees, but the difference between the most and least educated metro areas is double what it was in 1970.
Here is a ranking of cities by education level. The DC/Arlington/Alexandria area comes out as America's most educated region -- both in 1970 and in 2010.

Interestingly, I was reading today in Ed Glaeser's new book, Triumph of the City, that counties where more than 10 percent of the adult population had college degrees in 1970 grew by 72 percent by the year 2000. Counties where less than 5 percent of the population had college degrees only grew by 37 percent.

Manufacturing cities are increasingly being left behind.  And this has important ramifications for a variety of social outcomes:
Metro areas where more than one in three adults were college-educated had an average unemployment rate of 7.5 percent earlier this year, compared with 10.5 percent for cities where less than one in six adults had a college degree, according to Edward Glaeser, an economist at Harvard and the author of “Triumph of the City.”...

In a pattern that is part education, part family background, college graduates tend to have longer life expectancies, higher household incomes, lower divorce rates and fewer single-parent families than those with less education, and cities where they cluster tend to exhibit those patterns more strongly. Montgomery County, where Dayton is located, has a premature death rate that is more than double that of Fairfax County, Va., the highly educated Washington suburb, according to Bridget Catlin, a University of Wisconsin researcher.
Read the whole thing.

This makes me wonder about the future of my former city of Orlando?  It has a similar education ranking as Detroit.  And like Detroit, many moved to Orlando because there were a large number of decent paying jobs that people could get without a college education in the tourism industry.  In the future, this lower level of average education may make it more difficult for Orlando to diversify it's economy.  This limits the employment opportunities of workers who are still advancing in their careers.  One reason I ended up moving from Orlando to the DC area in 2005 was because I did not feel there were good opportunities for career growth for me.  (It was a good decision for me.  The DC area has been much better for my career advancement and educational opportunities.)

Tourism in Orlando took big hits after September 11th and then again during the financial crisis, demonstrating the weakness of a single-sector economy.  Orlando was also one of the hardest hit areas by the housing bubble, rated as the nation's worst housing market according to some rankings.  The crime rate there has been rising in recent years to the point where it is currently tied for the third most dangerous city in America according to US News.

Has a decline already begun or will Orlando bounce back as the economy strengthens?  It is too early to tell, but the experience of other cities gives reason for concern.

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