Key to the City: Attracting Young Graduates

duckyThe Upshot blog on The New York Times has an intriguing post — a bit old, but new to me — about where young college graduates are moving these days. It’s not just the usual big city suspects.

Where graduates go matters because it’s an indicator not just of a city’s coolness factor, but it’s eventual economic success. Go back to Richard Florida’s work on the creative class. Look at any major city and you’ll find a strong university community.

As Claire Cain Miller writes:

Even as Americans over all have become less likely to move, young, college-educated people continue to move at a high clip — about a million cross state lines each year, and these so-called young and the restless don’t tend to settle down until their mid-30s. Where they end up provides a map of the cities that have a chance to be the economic powerhouses of the future.

“There is a very strong track record of places that attract talent becoming places of long-term success,” said Edward Glaeser, an economist at Harvard and author of “Triumph of the City.” “The most successful economic development policy is to attract and retain smart people and then get out of their way.”

There are some issues with the data. It does not compare the rate of young grads moving there to the rate of population increase overall. It does not factor in booming economies with tons of jobs although that can be inferred. Houston is far from the most exciting city in the land (I’ve been there), but it increased young grads 50 percent in a decade while the overall population increased only single digits because jobs are so plentiful.

smartyFor the Norfolk area, there’s both encouraging numbers as well as a few that cast a pall in the report by City Observatory, a new think tank.

The percentage of young graduates increased to 4.1 percent in 2010 from 3.4 percent in 2000. That’s still far below places like San Francisco (7.6 percent), Raleigh (6.5 percent), Denver (7.5) and Austin (7.0), but near Richmond at 4.6 percent. the actual numbers of young grads jumped to 5,906 from 3,841, a whopping 54 percent increase. The average for the top 51 metro areas was a 25 percent increase. But, again, the numbers are much smaller than major players. Encouraging news, but nothing to celebrate — yet.




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