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Young professionals concentrating in big cities

More than a decade ago we identified four common characteristics of high-prosperity non-energy-driven states:

  • Over concentrated in knowledge-based services which are the sectors of the economy both growing and high wage
  • High proportion of adults with a four-year degree or more
  • Even higher college attainment in the state’s big metro(s)
  • In those big metros a high proportion of adults with a four-year degree or more, particularly young professionals

The just released 2018 American Community Survey confirms the last point. High-prosperity states and regions have in common a concentration of young professionals in the big city of their largest region(s).

Nationally 36.2 percent of 25-34 year olds have a four-year degree or more. The proportion of 25-34 year olds in the big city of the big region in the top 10 per capita income, non-energy-driven states who have at least a four-year degree is quite astounding. Here are the stats:

  • New York City: 52.5 percent. The big city in the big metro for New York, Connecticut and New Jersey
  • Boston: 62.0 percent. The big city in the big metro for Massachusetts and New Hampshire
  • Washington D.C.: 73.9%. The big city in the big metro for Maryland and Virginia. Also Baltimore is at 45.8 percent
  • Seattle: 75.0 percent. The big city in the big metro for Washington state
  • Denver: 59.9 percent. The big city for the big metro for Colorado

California is the other top 10 per capita income non-energy-driven state. It, of course, has multiple big metros. In Northern California San Francisco (79.2 percent), San Jose (55.8 percent) and Oakland (55.5 percent) all have high concentrations of young professionals. Los Angeles is at 40.8 percent. San Diego at 50.5 percent. Sacramento is at 41.3 percent.

The two highest per capita income Great Lakes states Minnesota and Illinois are anchored by high young professional concentrations in Minneapolis (62.7 percent) and Chicago (54.2 percent).

How are Michigan two big cities doing? Really good news in Grand Rapids. 51.0 percent, up from 35.8 percent in 2010. Not such good news for Detroit. It still is the national big city laggard. 16.1 percent, up from 10.8 percent in 2010.

As we explored in our recent Talent attracts capital post, concentrations of college educated adults, particularly young professionals is a major component of regions and states ability to retain and attract high-growth, high-wage enterprises. As we should have learned from Amazon HQ2, current and future talent concentrations are the asset that matters most to high-wage businesses. And you cannot have the needed talent concentrations without cities that have the high-density, high-amenity, transit-rich neighborhoods that young professionals are flocking to.

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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

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