Thursday, October 28, 2010

Are we getting smarter or younger?

So the Daily Beast gave us us a boost the other day in moving us up from 27th to 21st in their 2nd annual ranking of ‘smartest cities’.  They seem to aggregate several metrics including “libraries per capita”, but also de rigueur is a measure of educational attainment.  Specifically they measure those with a bachelors degree or higher in the population.  They do what everyone else does and measures the educational attainment of the population 25 and over.  That’s fine for a lot of regions, but as I point out for Pittsburgh it is not so insightful.  An older region, with lots more folks who grew up in an age when grad school, college, even high school was just not as common as today.  So for us what you get is a measure as much reflecting our age demographic.  Take it out, and what do you get?  From what I have compiled we rank a lot closer to the top in terms of educational attainment .. especially when you look at the younger parts of the labor force, we may in fact be the single most educated place in the nation. 
So the question is... are we getting smarter or younger?  and anyway, do thinks like this really change that much year over year? Educational attainment can't change over night and (as Jim R. likes to talk about) is really one of those mesofacts.   There is your new word of the day. JimR is coming to town next week btw. 


Anonymous BrianTH said...

Both, I would think.

The rump older population that persisted after the steel bust diaspora, which had driven out disproportionately younger people (and their present and future even-younger progeny), is gradually losing population share.

Meanwhile, our younger population is apparently disproportionately well-educated, and I believe that is the result of a trend (meaning I don't think this was always true of Pittsburgh's younger population, particularly not pre-steel bust).

So, we are now growing both "younger" and "smarter" at the same time (although the former trend is basically a correction of an effect caused by a singular event, albeit one with long-term consequences).

But I take Chris's point to be that you really need the "younger" part to explain the rate of change observable in the overall 25 and up numbers, because the "smarter" part would not on its own create a trend that rapid, and I am sure that is true.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

One aspect often overlooked is that the young, college educated from the more rural areas of the state relocate to the Pittsburgh area after graduation. The small towns and rural areas do not have any industry or private sector jobs for college grads. About the only ones that stay are in education or government. I could quickly name dozens of college grads that left the area after they graduated with many of them moving to the Pittsburgh area.

Thus Pittsburgh Metro is becoming more educated while the rural areas of the state are both less educated and older.

I just went to a seminar of landowners on gas leasing. Most of all the people there were farmers fifty or older...made me feel young again. Hard to keep the kids down on the farm after they get outta college.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:23:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Plus, why farm if some guy keeps shooting your llamas?

Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:24:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

While rural America, and smaller regions face challenges across the board.. especially agricultural farms with family succession issues. a lot of that is changing of late. Lots of folks across the Pennsylvania T commute into places like State College and Harrisburg for work.. both places have demand for college educated workers. NE PA has folks working in NYC MSA and South Central PA now has folks working in the Washington, DC area, again which has a pretty high demand for educational attainment in its workforce.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:59:00 PM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

While some metro areas of Pa support a local rural population, the larger rural areas are suffering. Most people limit their commute to an hour or less, thus much of Pa is losing its college educated. Drive through the smaller towns and see the boarded up businesses, the empty store fronts and even abandoned farms reverting to woodlands.

Perhaps the gas play will slow or reverse this trend. The infusion of cash and jobs should boost small town economies.

Maybe people will return to the rural areas as telecommuting or working at home on the internet becomes more feasible. Software design, CAD work, gaming, consulting work, law and more can now be done just about anywhere. A small office in a rural location may serve people anywhere on the globe. All one would need is access to an airport to make occasional sales calls. . . and flack jackets for your llamas.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 2:45:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

The U.S. has been urbanizing for its entire history (meaning the urban population has been steadily gaining share relative to the rural population), and I don't see that slowing down any time soon. Just the opposite, I'd say the better bet is that the urbanization rate will accelerate, due to increasing energy/transportation costs, the relentless cost of providing current-generation telecommunications infrastructure, and so on.

Of course college towns like State College and government centers like Harrisburg may remain the viable centers of their own urbanized areas, and generally there is no rule that says the number of viable urban areas has to stay fixed. But I don't see bonafide rural areas being able to stem the tide, at least not for the foreseeable future.

Given that setup--people in rural areas near Pittsburgh urbanizing via Pittsburgh as opposed to someplace else could indeed contribute positively to young/educated population growth.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 3:14:00 PM  

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