Sun Belt losing its glow for many college grads, data show

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By Associated Press
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Many college graduates are passing up the Sun Belt and industrial centers, which have been hit hard by the recession, in favor of life in urban, high-tech meccas. Such moves are fueling a resurgence in parts of California, North Carolina and Texas.

Census data released Tuesday offer the first detailed look at U.S. migration information, broken down by education and income, since the recession began in late 2007.

The data covering 2006 to 2008 show that Austin; Portland, Ore.; Charlotte; Raleigh, N.C.; and Seattle had large jumps in residents with at least a college degree. San Francisco, with its burgeoning biotech industry, and Houston, home to NASA and several medical centers, had significant increases in residents with advanced-level graduate degrees.

In contrast, metropolitan areas with high rates of foreclosures, fewer tech-based economies or increasing unemployment had declines or slower rates of growth in residents with a college degree or higher. They included Los Angeles, Atlanta, Orlando, New Orleans, Detroit and Cleveland.

"During this economic downturn, young, educated professionals are heading for the high-tech 'cool' metros rather than the fast-growing upstarts of the mid-decade," said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who analyzed the American Community Survey data. "The investment in knowledge industries and young professional amenities in places like Austin, Raleigh and Seattle is now paying off."

According to the data, cities with higher levels of education did not always have the highest incomes.

Austin, Seattle and Charlotte had large gains in the number of residents who made $65,000 a year or more. But they were outpaced by places such as Bakersfield, Calif., and Sun Belt communities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas, which had larger jumps in richer residents.

Frey attributed the differences to younger college graduates in the high-tech areas who are moving up the career ladder and have not reached their peak levels of income.

The information was collected over three years, from every U.S. community with at least 20,000 residents.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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