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From a “trap” to a “magnet”

Friday, Aug 28, 2015

* Back in the ’80s, big cities like Chicago were widely seen as “traps” for the poor, unskilled and uneducated. Chicago still has its problems, but it is also becoming a highly attractive magnet

You would think that a metropolitan area that overall has lost jobs over the last decade and a half would be suffering a brain drain as the youngest and brightest head elsewhere.

But apparently, it’s not so. According to new research from a guy who usually gets his facts straight, Chicago has held its own in recent years when it comes to attracting the highly educated. And, by some measures, the city actually has improved its relative standing. That may explain a few things about the region’s bifurcated economy.

The report comes from Aaron Renn, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative New York-based think tank. For many years he lived here, and he has taken some glee in puncturing claims from local boosters of great economic success.

What Renn did is take a look at the 28 metropolitan areas that lost either population or total jobs between 2000 and 2013. Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee and other Midwest burgs make that list, but—perhaps surprisingly—so do San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.

Almost all of them actually added workers with at least a bachelor’s degree, despite the expected “brain drain,” Renn reports. And Chicago was well above the average, with a 32.5 percent hike in those with college degrees and a 6.2-percentage-point increase in the share of the population with a degree.

Interestingly, the latter figure ranks well, not only among the 28 metros that lost jobs in that period, but also among the 100 biggest metro areas nationally, where Chicago ranked 21st.

By a separate count—how fast our college-graduate workforce grew, compared with the national average—Chicago was dead even, with no change in its so-called location quotient. And a lot of other cities that are considered magnets for the highly educated actually lagged, including Austin, Texas; Denver; Minneapolis; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

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- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Wordslinger - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 9:26 am:

    Anyone who’s paid attention to tne explosion of new residential in tne Greater Loop over the last 10-15 years could have told you that.

  2. - Shoedoctor - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 9:29 am:

    Bifurcated economy is absolutely true. Rahm and Daley before him have always been pro business democrats who do alot to attract businesses to Chicago. These are mostly white collar jobs.

    The State has done a poor job of attracting and retaining manufacturers and other businesses that employ alot of blue collar workers because of out terrible workers comp and legal environment

  3. - Not quite a majority - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 9:33 am:

    Can I say it?
    . . . because Madigan.

  4. - Help - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 9:36 am:

    This is no surprise to anyone who’s lived in Chicago the past 30 years and has paid attention. The city’s overall population loss has mostly been driven by flight from poor areas on the South and West Sides. Gentrification of neighborhoods south and west of the Loop have pushed up the number of college educated professionals in the city, fueling the positive numbers in this study. The other significant demographic trend in this timeframe has been the big increase in the Latino population on the Northwest and Southwest Sides, replacing the aging, white working class. Mix all that together and you wind up with a less populated city with more wealth, fewer but poorer pockets of poverty, and a shrinking middle class.

  5. - lake county democrat - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 9:49 am:

    “Two Chicagos”

    Absolutely we’re seeing a trend to the “European model” where you have wealthy people living in or near downtown and the poor on the outskirts. The reason Karen Lewis’ charge of racism in the school closing was so offensive was that there indeed was a significant migration of African-Americans from the city to the south suburbs and/or out of state. I used to volunteer at a place on the west side that received an offer they couldn’t refuse (now condos with businesses on the first floor). The whole area is gentrified. I have no idea where all those people went but I’m sure *some* aren’t in the city anymore.

    I guess when they came up with “trap” they didn’t consider “self-deportation.”

  6. - What? - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 9:55 am:

    Too bad jobs don’t follow people.

  7. - Wordslinger - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 9:56 am:

    SD, if you care to look at the National Association of Manufacturers website, you’ll see the value of Illinois manufactured goods increased from $80 billion 2008 to $101 billion in 2013, outpacing the business paradises of Indiana and Wisconsin and every other Midwest state in both percentage and real dollars.

    Illinois remains the third largest manufacturing state behind California and Texas.

  8. - 360 Degree TurnAround - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 10:01 am:

    Maybe Illinois would attract more businesses if certain groups and people would stop saying that the state is a bad place to do business and live. You can’t say Illinois is a bad place to live out of one side of your mouth and then complain that people are leaving out the other side of your mouth.

  9. - JS Mill - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 10:03 am:

    “Illinois remains the third largest manufacturing state behind California and Texas.”

    Excellent grab Word, even more impressive is the fact that Illinois is ranked with the two largest economies in the US in a positive way.

  10. - JackD - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 10:06 am:

    @Wordslinger: Looks like the impact of automation.

  11. - Arizona Bob - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 10:26 am:

    My daughter just moved to Lakeview, and the reason was the great attractions of restaurants, clubs and events in the city. Single college grads find it a good place to live.

    A lot of people with whom I worked in Warrenville came from the city. The real estate taxes were relatively low, and those few who had kids sent them to private schools.

    The problem is that crime, lousy, unstable and badly mismanaged public schools could easily shift this paradigm. One of my daughter’s friends from high school was killed in Lakeview a few weeks ago during a cell phone robbery, and the theft rate there is making people think twice about moving there.

    When the taxes are increased sufficiently to pay for the school and city overspending, corruption and mismanagement, and the poor performance of the CPD to protect the people, this could change in hurry.

    One thing not mentioned here is the average salary for new grads in the city. Most of the “startups” of which I’m aware are pretty low paid marketing jobs, things like professional recruiters, tech sales, and internet sales. Most of those are $25K-$40K jobs, less than starting salaries for new grads in engineering and business logistics.

    Engineers and most highly paid finance and tech jobs seem to be causing reverse commutes from the city.

    “Empty nester” college grads are also coming to the central city, but if CPD doesn’t do a better job of protecting and if taxes skyrocket, as they likely have to do, that can dry up quickly.

    One thing for sure. People aren’t coming to the city for the schools and sound government delivery of services.

  12. - Texas Red - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 10:43 am:

    Chicago may be a more desirable location to “high skilled” folks - however that has done nothing to help the with finances . From Reuters ..

    ” While the report projects that fiscal 2016 expenditures will outstrip revenue by $232.6 million, the lowest gap since 2008, additional pension and debt payments would push the deficit to $425.6 million.

  13. - Wordslinger - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 10:52 am:

    TR, you can have a strong economy and fiscal mismanagement at the same time.

  14. - Chicago Guy - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 10:53 am:

    Arizona Bob, Some of the best schools in the State of Illinois are Chicago Public Schools.

  15. - nona - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 11:00 am:

    == IL remains the third largest manufacturing state behind CA & TX. ==

    After a dozen years of one-party rule, how could that be possible??

  16. - Wordslinger - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 11:09 am:

    JD, I’m not sure what you mean by automation, but that’s hardly something that is in state control.

    There are just constant fact-free assertions in some circles regarding the state and how there’s a magical thermostat down in Springfield that if you just adjusted it a certain way, it would be a 1950s economy all over again.

    It leads to a lot of bad policy ideas and practices, like giving away $100 million in no-strings-attached handouts to profitable corporations like EBay and Capitol One for “job creation,” while neglecting an obvious oncoming fiscal disaster.

  17. - Arizona Bob - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 11:27 am:

    @Chicago Guy

    =Arizona Bob, Some of the best schools in the State of Illinois are Chicago Public Schools.=

    yep. About 5 or 6 of 700 are really top notch. Try getting into Whitney Young, Decatur Classical, Payton or North Side Prep without giving a $250K “donation” or having clout, though. The rank and file schools in CPS, the ones where the average folks can attend, have been pretty miserable. Take a look at the test results in school report cards for them.

  18. - Fedralist - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 11:48 am:

    Not only a bifurcated economy but a bifurcated class division.

    But this is true in a lot of cities across the nation. Miami, L.A. etc. Beautiful areas with beautiful homes and yet a large amount of areas that resemble 3rd world countries.

  19. - PublicServant - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 11:59 am:

    How’s the out-migration of teachers in Arizona going for you thanks to the implementation of some of your ideas?

    Put the link below together by removing the line feed I introduced in order to avoid the wide screen issue caused by long links.


  20. - The Jimmy - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 1:10 pm:


    It’s all in your own report. IL outpaces IN for manufacturing output by 6%. We’re twice the size of them, and have a similar manufacturing history.

    Your report also shows which states have the highest and lowest share of mfg employment.
    1) Indiana 17.3%
    2) Wisconsin 16.4%
    3) Michigan 13.8%
    4) Iowa 13.8%
    18) Illinois 9.9%

    Nothing wrong with having a more diversified economy, but that’s not what’s happening here. Manufacturers aren’t hiring here.

    Could that have anything to do with work comp, property taxes, right to work, etc? Or is it really true, as you say, that the statehouse has nothing to do with any of this?

  21. - The Jimmy - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 1:17 pm:

    It’s also worth noting that your report is from 2013. And since then IL mfg payrolls have gone down, and in those other states they’ve gone up.

  22. - Grendal Drendall - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 1:42 pm:

    Change in Manufacturing employment since July 2013:

    IL: -4,200
    IN: +28,300
    IA: +3,800
    KY: +10,100
    MI: +49,500
    MO: +6,500
    OH: +26,600
    WI: +18,000

  23. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 2:04 pm:

    ==- lake county democrat - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 9:49 am:==

    Um, much of the loss in AfAm population was due to tearing down public housing complexes and not making up the difference within the city limits.

  24. - Wordslinger - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 2:49 pm:

    Jimmy, you’ve convinced me.

    A larger manufacturing sector and a more diverse economy that is exponentially larger is a bad thing.

    Some of you guys should will your brains to science.

  25. - VanillaMan - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 2:57 pm:

    Good news. Better will be when those young college educated Chicagoans marry and build a family in Chicago - not one of the suburbs.

  26. - JS Mill - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 4:02 pm:

    =A lot of people with whom I worked in Warrenville came from the city. The real estate taxes were relatively low, and those few who had kids sent them to private schools.=

    Such an ignorant and baseless statement. Any demographic data to support this incredibly ridiculous statement? Looking at the data (check out for data) for Wheaton-Warrenville schools, Naperville schools, and Winfield schools (just to name a few) and you would find that 1) the public districts have strong enrollment, and 2) have good test scores 3) strong activities, 3) excellent arts programs and are widely regarded as some of the best schools (public or private) not only in the state but the nation.

    I know it does not work for your narrative, and I will just save you the time of insulting me and my profession and assume that you have already done that.

    Have a great day DaVinci!

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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