The intelligent move if you're looking for a good job and good prospects for the future -- not to mention good bookstores and restaurants -- is to head for college-grad magnets such as Seattle or Atlanta and avoid cities like Cleveland or Bakersfield, Calif.

At least that's one message the Wiz gleaned from economist Jesse M. Shapiro's new study of employment growth and quality of life in cities with high and low concentrations of college graduates. Shapiro, a University of Chicago research fellow, found that a 10 percent increase in the percentage of college grads living in a metropolitan area produced nearly a 1 percent increase in subsequent job growth. Wages -- and housing prices -- also rose with the percentage of college graduates.

Other researchers have found much the same thing, and attributed it to the fact that better-educated people work smarter, which boosts productivity and generates new jobs.

But that's not the whole story, Shapiro reported in a working paper published recently by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Only about 60 percent of the employment boost from college grads was due to enhanced productivity growth while "roughly one-third of the effect seems to come from more rapid improvement in the quality of life," he found.

Apparently, better-educated people want all kinds of amenities, and that demand creates jobs in trendy boutiques, overpriced coffee shops, tweedy bookstores and chic art galleries. Shapiro found that cities with a high percentage of college graduates had proportionally more restaurants than towns with lower percentages, even after he controlled for income differences.

Guess high school grads, even the richer ones, prefer home cooking.

Spring Forward, Fall Down

Feeling a little blue, forgetful or stupid? Pleasant weather and spending time outdoors are virtually guaranteed to brighten your mood as well as improve your memory and other cognitive functions -- but only in the spring.

A research team led by Matthew C. Keller, a fellow at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, reports in the latest issue of Psychological Science that warmer temperatures or higher barometric pressures are "related to better mood, better memory and 'broadened' cognitive style" as spring arrives and time spent outside increases.

But sunny days didn't produce sunnier moods in other seasons, the researchers claim. "The same relationships between mood and weather were not observed during other times of year, and indeed hotter weather was associated with lower mood in the summer," they wrote.

Why would hotter weather be a mood booster in May but not in August? And why don't fall's cooler temperatures send spirits soaring again? The researchers aren't exactly sure, but it appears that winter cold is more of a downer than summer heat. "Pleasant weather improves mood and broadens cognition in the spring because people have been deprived of such weather during the winter" -- sort of a pleasant counterpoint to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that puts so many people down in the dumps during January and February, Keller and his colleagues speculated.

The Blessings of Democracy (Cont.)

Government corruption doesn't sour economic growth in a democracy, and that's one more reason to promote democratic rule in totalitarian countries burdened by widespread bribery, fraud and other forms of public malfeasance.

"The ability in a democracy for the electorate to remove its leaders from office seems to mitigate the stunting effect that corruption has on economic growth," claimed A. Cooper Drury and Jonathan Krieckhaus, assistant professors of political science at the University of Missouri, and Southern Methodist University associate professor of political science Michael Lusztig. "Unlike non-democracies, whose economic performance significantly suffers from corruption, corrupt democracies apparently grow just as fast as democracies with little to no corruption."

Drury and his colleagues examined data from 1982 to 1997 on more than 100 countries listed in the World Bank's World Development Indicators and the International Country Risk Guide's assessment of corruption. Corruption was defined as the abuse of public office for private gain. They also looked at whether each country was a democracy, which they defined as one having an elected chief executive and legislature as well as having more than one political party.

"Given that some nations are rife with corruption, promoting democracy within them may enhance not only their general human rights but also their opportunity for prosperity, they wrote in an article scheduled to appear in the International Political Science Review.

When the Family Went Nuclear

Why, it seems like only yesterday that large extended families lived together and shared their lives from cradle to grave, men ruled their households with an iron fist and everyone got married young to spouses selected by their parents.

Dream on, says Arland D. Thornton, a University of Michigan sociology professor. In Western Europe, those family structures were as dead as the dodo centuries before the last dodo died, Thornton claims in his new book, "Reading History Sideways: The Fallacy and Enduring Impact of the Developmental Paradigm on Family Life" (University of Chicago Press).

Many key characteristics of the "modern" family make their appearance as early as the 1300s -- during the Middle Ages, a time more closely associated with intrigues in Europe's royal courts than with the emergence of the nuclear family. He says this era saw the appearance in northwest Europe of small parent-child families, weakened family ties, independent teenagers and marriages between men and women who had chosen each other.

morinr@washpost.com