* 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.
* In-flight Internet provider Gogo up and running at new global headquarters in Chicago