More education boosts economic strength of nation's metros
April 14, 2008


by G. Scott Thomas

College graduates and post-graduates are important to a city's economic vitality. The reason is as simple as their paychecks.
A recent federal report proves the point. It shows that a worker holding a doctorate will earn 70 percent more, on average, than a colleague with a bachelor's degree and 215 percent more than someone who never progressed beyond high school.
And the gap widens every year, increasing the importance of higher education and brainpower. Workers who don't keep pace are destined to pay the price.

"The decline of labor unions and a decline in the minimum wage in constant dollars have contributed to a relative drop in the wages of less educated workers," warns a separate analysis by the Census Bureau.
But cities with educated workforces have a brighter economic future. A new bizjournals study that ranks the brainpower levels of America's 100 largest metropolitan areas finds that Madison, Wis., leads the list.
Washington and San Jose are runners-up in bizjournals' study. Washington boasts the nation's largest share of adults with advanced degrees, 22.2 percent, while San Jose follows close behind in that category, a shade under 20 percent. Here are profiles of the 10 metros that are the brainpower leaders.
The study's objective was to identify those metros that have the highest levels of collective brainpower, as indicated by their residents' educational attainment.
Madison is blessed with three employment sectors that place a premium on education. It's the home base for the 42,000-student University of Wisconsin, the state government of Wisconsin (population: 5.6 million) and an expanding number of biotechnology firms.
The result is a broadly educated workforce. Seventy-five percent of Madison's adults have attended college, which is three percentage points ahead of any other market. And its high-school dropout rate of 4.3 percent is easily the lowest in the study.
The University of Wisconsin's chancellor, John Wiley, has been emphasizing the link between education and economic success since assuming office in 2001.