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They Am Smart

The Atlantic has a story (subscription required) this month on how "America's educated elite is clustering in a few cities—and leaving the rest of the country behind." Basically, college graduates are increasingly moving to "superstar cities" (places like Seattle, New York and San Francisco) and their surrounding suburbs partly because they are cool places to live, but mostly because that's where they need to live to "realize their full economic value," even if it means living in "penury until either making it or being forced out by the high cost of living."

The author of the article, Richard Florida, calls this the "means migration," and says it is as significant as any of the great migrations that have shaped our country, from pioneers going west to African Americans leaving the rural South for the urban North. As evidence of this means migration, Florida points to the increasing geographic concentration of college graduates. As recently as 1970, college graduates were dispersed pretty evenly throughout America's 318 metropolitan regions. Over the last 30 years, that has changed. In Washington, D.C., and Seattle, for example, more than 20 percent of the population had an advanced degree in 2004, compared with 5 percent in Cleveland, 4 percent in Detroit and 2 percent in Newark.

So where does Dallas fit in? In terms of college graduates compared with the overall population, not much has changed since 1970. In fact, nothing has changed. In 1970, Dallas was +6 in the number of college graduates per 100 people, relative to the national average, and in 2000, Dallas was still +6.

So maybe college graduates haven't flocked to Dallas over the last 30 years the way they have to San Jose or Denver or Atlanta, but they're not leaving for other places either, as they have in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis. And this is a good thing, because, according to the article, smart people equals economic growth.

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As for the future, Florida writes, "America's most successful cities may increasingly be inhabited by a core of wealthy workers leading highly privileged lives, catered to by an underclass of service workers living in far-off suburbs."

Sounds like Dallas is already there.

--Jesse Hyde

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