College grads are clustering. What’s that mean for Providence?May 31st, 2012 at 2:36 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
The New York Times has a fascinating article today about the growing trend of American college graduates clustering together in a small number of metropolitan areas, leaving the rest of the country behind:
The winners are metro areas like Raleigh, N.C., San Francisco and Stamford, Conn., where more than 40 percent of the adult residents have college degrees. The Raleigh area has a booming technology sector and several major research universities; San Francisco has been a magnet for college graduates for decades; and metropolitan Stamford draws highly educated workers from white-collar professions in New York like finance.
Metro areas like Bakersfield, Calif., Lakeland, Fla., and Youngstown, Ohio, where less than a fifth of the adult residents have college degrees, are being left behind. The divide shows signs of widening as college graduates gravitate to places with many other college graduates and the atmosphere that creates.
That, of course, is a problem to the extent that higher educational attainment is correlated with improved economic prospects. “This is one of the most important developments in the recent economic history of this country,” economist Enrico Moretti tells The Times.
So how does Providence’s situation look? Comme ci, comme ça.
The data shows 28.5% of residents have a college degree in the Providence metro area (which extends out to Fall River and New Bedford). That’s below the national average of 32%, and it puts Providence at No. 54 among the 100 largest metro areas, tied with Hampton Roads, Va., and Akron, Ohio.
The regional picture is worse. Providence has the fewest college graduates of any large New England metro area, below Stamford (#3 nationwide, at 44%), Boston (#6, 43%), Hartford (#15, 34.6%), Worcester (#25, 32.7%), New Haven (#32, 31.8%) and Springfield (#49, 29.1%).
However, the Providence area’s college ratio isn’t too different from off-cited model city Pittsburgh (#49, 29.1%), and the Brookings Institution’s Alan Berube suggests sees hope in the former steel city:
This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s the end of the line for Dayton and other metro areas that are lagging in the race for highly educated workers. If nothing else, the experience of places like Pittsburgh indicates that progress is possible, even for metro areas that are not exactly migration magnets for young adults. But those places also provide a reminder that an upgrade in educational attainment doesn’t occur simultaneously, and often accompanies broader economic transition in the region.