Where do All the College-Educated People Live in the Country?

An interesting article recently ran in The Atlantic Cities, outlining the segregation of college-educated graduates. The thinking is, "smart" people will congregate beside other "smart" people, but there's segregation within those communities. Let's take a look.

How Segregation is Defined

The author, Richard Florida, describes it as "the tendency of talented and educated people to concentrate more in some places than others…[and] how much of this kind of talent sorting goes on within metros. To what extent do the most educated citizens of any given metro area live separately from the rest of the population," asks Florida, "in their own exclusive enclaves?"

Areas of Biggest Segregation

The areas in this country typically thought of as "intellectual hotspots" (e.g. New York and the rest of the Eastern seaboard; large cities in California, Washington and Oregon; and generally metro cities on the edge of the country) are precisely where college graduates are most segregated.

The infographic on the site (dark blue means most segregated, while yellow means most integrated) shows the highest-concentration of segregation is found in Alabama, Texas, California, Ohio, and Arkansas. Conversely, the most segregation is in roughly the middle of the country, from Utah to Wisconsin, Montana to Texas.

Segregation tends to happen more in densely-populated states or large metros, while integration (or the least amount of segregation) tends to take place in smaller places. Florida theorizes this is because "[large metros] tend to have greater levels of gentrification and more high-end neighborhoods that price out less skilled workers, thus concentrating the more skilled (and better paid) in their own enclaves."

Reasons for Segregation/Integration

Besides the gentrification that Florida mentions, other reasons he notes include the following:

Tech Influence: In cities where there's a sizeable tech industry, segregation of college-educated people tends to be greater. The thinking is the tech industry is a highly insular one, and one that doesn't quite have a need for less-skilled workers (it's a mainly white-collar industry, with not much blue-collar integration). And circularly, tech firms tend to far more often take skilled workers than non.

Racial Cleavage: College segregation happens less in predominantly white neighborhoods (-.45), and more in ethnic neighborhoods, such as black (.34), Latino (.25), and Asian (.24). A possible reason for this is comfort among shared roots, further extrapolated into comfort among shared education levels.

Income Level: The third way intellectual segregation is explained, according to Florida, is by way of income. The more a metro area has intellectual segregation, the more it also tends to have income segregation, or inequality.

Although the idea that college grads and non-college grads mixing happily and equally was never really entirely plausible, it still is a bit of an eye-opener to see just how segregated the two groups are. It also seems to suggest that if the two were to become more integrated, the country's wage and income inequalities might also become more integrated, too.
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