Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Core City Educational Attainment

I’ve noted before how the fate of central cities and their regions seem to be linked. While again I can’t draw an arrow of causation, it’s rare to see a thriving region with a sinking central city.

It’s almost a truism that one of the most important drivers of urban success is educational attainment. So let’s take a quick look at educational attainment in core cities, using my Midwest metros as a proxy.

This probably isn’t a terribly surprising graph. Note the very low educational attainment of the city of Cleveland and Detroit. This highlights clearly the challenge facing those regions.

Here’s another view, looking at the change in college degree attainment between 2000 and 2009.

Another illuminating graph. We see again Cleveland and Detroit at the bottom, failing to even keep pace with the national average. On a more positive note, St. Louis saw a very strong increase, which bodes well for that city.

Just something to ponder. Note that I excluded my traditional look at Louisville because a city-county merger skewed the stats.

10 Comments
Topics: Demographic Analysis, Education, Talent Attraction

10 Responses to “Core City Educational Attainment”

  1. Everett says:

    *sigh* Detroit’s at the bottom–again. Though I don’t think it’s for lack of opportunity. The universities around here, while very good and maintaining a high quality, are very open to at least giving even unqualified students a chance. Looks like they just aren’t making it through the programs.

    I wonder how much brain drain is affecting Detroit’s stats above.

  2. Patrick says:

    Aaron- how about one more chart that compares these cities not to the US average, but to the top ten cities in the following categories for the 2000s?

    Population Percentage Growth
    Per Capita Income Percentage Growth

  3. Jim Russell says:

    I think a better indicator is the employment of college educated workers in the city core. I would argue that job sprawl is more problematic than residential sprawl.

  4. Patrick says:

    Okay, maybe that’s two more charts.

  5. Anon says:

    I would be curious to hear from someone in St. Louis and Cincinnati about how they accomplished those increases. If it’s an increase in young singles and couples without kids near the CBD or campuses, then I understand. If its an increase of degreed families (w/kids) where are they living? Are they moving into former working class neighborhoods? Is there new construction in the city proper? Are they replacing non-degreed households in the nicer neighborhoods?

    Regarding Cleveland, I don’t see the number changing much unless the city merges with the county. There are “gentrified” neighborhoods near downtown that could add recent graduates. Locals know they’ve been improving, but to outsiders, they will still appear blighted. You’ll see the occasional stroller, but no school children. The University Circle area has interesting, walkable, heavily patrolled suburbs just to the east and very distressed city neighborhoods to west. So the university’s growth goes mostly east.

    If you’re talking about families, in addition to the school and safety issues, the housing stock is a limitation. The vast majority of the homes in the city proper are doubles or small (<1500 sqft) single family homes. There are only tiny pockets of nice homes (South Hills, Edgewater, Impett Park). Families shopping for a home in an urban setting will have many more options in the inner rings than the city proper. Do other cities have this issue?

  6. DBR96A says:

    Pittsburgh is impressive, both in terms of percentage and growth percentage. This is proof that Pittsburgh is NOT a dying city.

    Furthermore, the 25+ category masks the vast improvements that Pittsburgh has made in the 25-44 age range. Pittsburghers ages 55+ are college-educated at a rate well below the national average, but Pittsburghers ages 25-44 are college-educated at a rate well above the national average. (It’s about average in the 45-54 age segment.)

    I think Pittsburgh’s star is rising. Not only is it getting much smarter, but it’s also in a prime geographic location. It can be the liason between the Northeast and the Midwest, and it and Chicago can be a pair of solid bookends on the loose string of Great Lakes-area cities.

  7. Chris Barnett says:

    Anon, not so much in Indy, at least for those with an urban bias or preference.

    The “old city” (pre WW2) neighborhoods have a wide variety of housing stock. There are plenty of magnet and charter schools, as well as a decent Catholic parish school and high school system.

    I think Columbus offers similar living choices, though I can’t speak to the schools.

  8. Anon says:

    Chris,
    The more desirable homes in the inner rings are definitely pre-war, mostly 1920’s. They are actually the same age as the doubles and smaller sf homes. If this were an region with ongoing annexation, like Columbus or Indy, they would definitely be considered “old city”

    Look at a map of Cleveland. The suburbs of Lakewood, Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, and Bratenahl are closer to downtown, and better served by public transit, than city proper neighborhoods like North Collinwood and Lee Miles.

    What I’m getting at is the disturbingly low 12% college grad rate is in part a legacy of an era 80-90 years ago, when less than 5% of the national population had a degree. The neighborhoods with higher quality housing managed to not be annexed by the central city. Rather than exhausting our resources trying to attracted graduates into the central city, we should change the definition of the central city to include areas that are already attractive.

  9. STL City says:

    I can’t explain the remarkable increase for St. Louis, but I certainly believe it. The renaissance of this city is simply remarkable. Attitudes about the city have been improving for years, and the brain drain of recent decades has all but stopped. Young people and immigrants are reclaiming old urban neighborhoods left and right. It is a very inspiring trend, and because St. Louis is so affordable, I don’t see it slowing down. Things are looking very good for St. Louis. Now if only we can escape the paralyzing wrath of Missourah…

  10. the urban politician says:

    STL City,

    I second your observations about St Louis’ rennaiscance. It is a process flying under the radar for most of America, since St Louis is located in “flyover country”.

    The free 110 mph rail service to Chicago that St Louis will ultimately get shouldn’t hurt either ;)

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