Fed Research Shows Positive Trend for Pittsburgh

This post was written by contributor Lewis Lehe. -KG

Stephan Whitaker, a research economist at the Cleveland Fed, has noticed two salubrious trends in RustBelt demographics:

1) between 2000 and 2008, college graduates rose sharply as a share of the work-force in several urban areas

2) in the future, the graduate share will keep rising as older, less-educated workers retire

This news is good taken at face value, because research by Ed Glaeser and other urban economists suggests cities thrive as idea-generating centers. When educated people interact face-to-face, they breed businesses and insights.

Educational Attainment of Working-age Adults in Fourth District Metro Areas

Working-age adults (2008) Degree share 2000 (percent) Degree share 2008 (percent) Change (percent)
Erie 151,718 22.5 28.2 5.6
Akron 386,990 26.1 31.6 5.4
Pittsburgh 1,235,251 28.1 32.7 4.6
Columbus 896,440 32.3 36.9 4.5
Lexington-Fayette 161,486 37.1 41.5 4.4
Mansfield 67,839 13.1 17.4 4.3
Youngstown-Warren 306,892 17.5 21.7 4.2
Cleveland 1,223,369 26.0 29.2 3.2
Cincinnati 863,150 28.6 31.7 3.1
United States 167,282,883 26.5 29.6 3.1
Canton 226,427 19.1 20.8 1.8
Lima 80,257 14.9 16.6 1.7
Hamilton-Middleton 195,416 25.9 27.4 1.5
Dayton-Springfield 508,775 24.4 25.8 1.3
Toledoa 419,227 21.6 22.9 1.3

Things I thought were interesting

Whitaker finds that Pittsburgh stands out in both trends, because we are gaining lots of graduates (mainly PA locals and international immigrants) and because our older workers are very uneducated—probably because they grew up in a city with steel mills. He speculates: “If the highly educated cohorts in Pittsburgh continue to phase in, the city will eventually have a workforce like a university town rather than a former industrial center.”

I also did my own comparison and found that the number of college-grad immigrants Pittsburgh gained exceeds the entire population of Bloomfield. I think this is a good thought comparison because Bloomfield itself is split between young college grads and old people. Here is a picture I took in Bloomfield that captures the tension:

These trends indicate Pittsburgh will probably become a better place for people like me to live. More college graduates will produce wider cultural variety, more startups, and less-corrupt politicians.  I’m excited about that, but I believe there’s another side to this coin: Pittsburgh’s graduate share will rise in part because it is not a good place for working-class men and women to move. It’s not necessarily a bad thing when you take the whole universe into account, though. After all, in order for some places to be good at attracting working class men and women, other places have to be good at losing them (or at least not gaining them). But it’s worth keeping in mind.

In contrast, I thought this was worth highlighting: “Columbus and Cincinnati both experienced large increases in their populations of unskilled immigrants. In Columbus, the nondegreed immigrant adult population increased from just under 30,000 to over 46,000, and the equivalent population in Cincinnati increased from 19,700 to 29,600.”

Since unskilled immigrants are the working class of the working class, I say hats off to Columbus and Cincinnati for providing an attractive place for these families to live. Doubly so for Columbus as it is also a highly-educated city.

-Lewis Lehe


Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Education, Headline, regionalism

8 responses to “Fed Research Shows Positive Trend for Pittsburgh

  1. Eldridge Chibbleworth

    I don’t really see how that sign “captures the tension” between between young college grads and “old people.” I somehow doubt that it was an 80-year-old Italian man who scrawled “FUCK OFF” and added a few anarchy symbol flourishes. That sign is more indicative of the struggle between naive young leftists (who are, ironically, probably from the suburbs) and the budding yuppies they will become in 2-3 years.

  2. Pingback: Interesting piece on PGH educational-attainment trends - Pittsburgh - Pennsylvania (PA) - City-Data Forum

  3. Picture is on border of Bloonfield and Garfield a historically poor black neighborhood.Somebody’s attempt to comment on the Penn Ave Arts Initative.


  4. John S.

    Interesting to see that Akron experienced the second-highest jump of the cities listed. Erie, too, at #1 is very interesting. Does this represent an educational “wave” heading west from Pittsburgh?

  5. I’m not sure about Akron and Erie, but in Pittsburgh the biggest single factor is not attraction or retention of new educated people as much as the die off of the older, less educated generation. Death is the number one factor here changing the city’s demographics.

    My guess is it’s similar in Erie and Akron.

  6. Yes, we are starting to attract more educated people, but the biggest factor is the previous generation aging out of the workforce.

    Regardless of what Pittsburgh becomes, it won’t be what it was.

  7. Paul

    I don’t think I see this as surprising, but maybe I’m missing something. Doesn’t this just verify the already know fact that more high school graduates are going to college. I live in Pittsburgh, have a Bachelor’s degree, and both my parents only are high school grads. I can name a bunch of 20 and 30 years olds that are also the first in their family to get a BA.


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