In the past,
American cities tended to have relatively equal shares of college
graduates. In 1970, nearly all metropolitan areas had numbers of
graduates that were within a few percentage points of the national
average. Today, however, many cities are suffering from a serious
shortage of people who have 4-year degrees. As this trend continues,
cities like Bakersfield, California, and Dayton, Ohio find themselves
increasingly left behind.
Causes of the
Shortage of Graduates
Part of the
problem stems from the loss of manufacturing jobs in some metro
areas. Dayton, for example, depended for a long time on its large
number of manufacturing jobs. Residents often did not need college
degrees to land lucrative positions. Dayton’s manufacturing industry
had dwindled by the early 2000s, and the city now finds itself
without the graduates necessary to adapt to the economy.
Cities that rely
on college graduates are ahead of the curve. College graduates tend
to flock to cities with large populations of other graduates, so
metros like San Francisco and New York City are bursting at the seams
with educated young people. Cities like Dayton, with their relative
lack of college graduates, have actually see their numbers decrease, even while
the national rate has gone up.
Effects of Lacking College Grads
The recession has
made it even more difficult for metro areas to deal with the scarcity
of college graduates. People with 4-year degrees have both longer
life expectancies and higher incomes than those without degrees.
These benefits extend to the cities where these graduates live.
highly educated Fairfax County, for example, has half the premature death rate of
the Montgomery County, where Dayton is located. Educated citizens
tend to direct the economic future, and a poorly-educated area will
suffer the harshest effects of the current economic situation.
by Affected Cities to Reverse the Trend
educational drought is a serious problem for affected metros, and
some cities have been fighting to reverse the trend. Dayton, Ohio has
created the Dayton Early College Academy, a school aimed at preparing
low-income students for college. The high school has achieved
success, sending 97% of its students to college.
Instead of looking
for manufacturing jobs, Dayton’s high school graduates may now find
themselves looking for math tutoring online. Dayton has also used internships as a way to try
to keep college students and graduates in the area.
While Dayton has launched a concerted effort to attract and retain graduates, the uneven
distribution of educated young professionals continues. Cities with
cultures built around high school education will need to adapt to
focus on secondary education or face economic stagnation.
Time will tell whether or not cities like Dayton can reverse current
trends and sustain populations of college graduates similar to those
of rapidly growing metros.