Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cutting Through the Statistical Quagmire:
Here's NE Ohio's Chief Economic Problem

Richard Florida, a controversial guru of regional economic competitive advantage (with whom I don't generally agree) does nicely cut to the chase about Northeast Ohio's number one economic problem: the unnervingly low rate of college graduates in this region. In this article for a publication by the McKinsey consulting firm, he highlights what he calls a "means migration" that "can be seen most clearly in the increasing geographic concentration of college graduates." And as he often does in his various writings (this article is an excerpt from his latest book), he rightly uses the Cleveland area as a prime example of the negative side of the equation, pointing to its low rate of college grads, which is lower than even Detroit's.


At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Jane Levesque said...

While I would agree that the country has an uneven distribution of college-educated people, I think Mr. Florida needs to do a better job of defining his use of the word "region."

When I worked on roughly 80 economic resource guides for cities and counties throughout the country, I grew accustomed to seeing 25 percent as a pretty standard college graduate rate. However, there are pockets of highly educated people in the areas you'd expect: Silicon Valley, Boston, etc.

But let's look at the word "region." There could very likely be a low percentage of college grads in the CITY of Detroit. However, if you look just beyond that, you'll find higher concentrations of college grads. The city of Novi (about a half hour from the big automakers in Detroit) boasted a 49 percent rate in 2000. Oh, and about 16 percent had post-graduate degrees too. If we include Novi in the Detroit region, the rate would go way up.

I don't have statistics for the CITY of Cleveland, but the information in my former company's book put the Cuyahoga County college grad rate at 27.5 percent in 2005. If you include the Mahoning Valley (Youngstown) area, that drags the percentage down. Their rates range from 10 to 19 percent, depending on which county you look at. It all depends on what area(s) you include in your statistics.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Point well taken, Jane. And it's precisely these kinds of details that give me problems with Florida's work, the most egregious of which is his whole idiot notion about how every city and region should try to become "cool," which would then solve their economic problems by attracting the edgier types. It's all a bit silly.

Having said that, I've seen other stats (which I do trust) that show that however you define this region, it's doing much worse in that regard than it should be, and also in comparison with other similarly situated regions. We have to focus on it in a real way, or suffer the continuing consequences. Love to hear from everyone (especially in NEOhio) on this subject.

At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who stops learning is OLD, whether at twenty or eighty.

-Henry Ford

At 9:26 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You said it, Henry.

At 10:48 AM, Blogger Christine said...

Funny when you think about how many colleges and universities we have around here. If it makes you feel better, 85% of Cleveland State grads choose to stay here. Sure, 96% of them are from here, but still.

At 12:02 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You're right, Christine, and great to see you back here after awhile. Speaking of this subject, how's your piece of the Got City Game project going?


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