Young Professionals Are Flocking to Raleigh, not Oklahoma City, in One Interactive

National Journal
Nancy Cook and Brian Mcgill
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Nancy Cook and Brian McGill
Nov. 1, 2013, 8:27 a.m.

At­ten­tion may­ors, gov­ernors, and eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment gurus: Your plans to lure young col­lege gradu­ates to your cit­ies with down­town lofts and loc­al start-ups are not work­ing. In­stead, mil­len­ni­als are opt­ing to move from their col­lege towns to a much smal­ler cluster of cit­ies than they did 30 years ago — places such as Boulder, Colo., Wash­ing­ton D.C; Cam­bridge, Mass.; or San Jose, Cal­if. 

 In 1970, 20 metro areas around the coun­try claimed 24.6 per­cent of people with bach­el­or’s de­grees who chose to live in cit­ies, says Alan Berube, a seni­or fel­low at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion. By 2010, that share had jumped to 43.4 per­cent.

 This means that al­most half of col­lege gradu­ates in the na­tion’s biggest cit­ies are clustered in just 20 places. That’s a huge con­cen­tra­tion of the well-edu­cated work­force: people who com­pan­ies want to hire, who tend to out­earn those with high-school de­grees, and whose earn­ing can sig­ni­fic­antly add to a city’s tax base.

Share of the pop­u­la­tion with a bach­el­or’s de­gree or high­er and change in share between 1980 and 2010 by metro area pop­u­la­tion
Roll over a circle or choose a city from the drop-down menu for more in­form­a­tion.

 Why should we care about this trend in where urb­an-lov­ing col­lege grads prefer to live? Well, this and oth­er eco­nom­ic data show that the coun­try is in­creas­ingly di­vided, not just eco­nom­ic­ally between the rich and the poor but also geo­graph­ic­ally along eco­nom­ic lines.

 The ”gil­ded cit­ies,” such as New York and Cam­bridge, have bright fu­tures be­cause they’re at­tract­ing the coun­try’s most edu­cated work­force. (The most pop­u­lar cit­ies for col­lege grads tend to either be con­sidered tech hubs or are home to ro­bust uni­versit­ies.) Mean­while, place such as like Phoenix or Ok­lahoma City may even­tu­ally fall fur­ther be­hind. It’s lit­er­ally a tale of two cit­ies — and the dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tions they’re headed in — as the best-edu­cated urb­an dwell­ers in the U.S. pick their hand­ful of spots to call home.

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