Trends that Tell Nothing, But the Trend…

Richard Florida and his team are at it again, pointing to correlations and assuming causations. 

High-School Dropouts and College Grads Are Moving to Very Different Places

Cities like Washington and San Francisco are gaining the highly skilled but losing their less-educated workforce.
While I suppose I could live anywhere, my career somewhat demands that I be near either cities or at least college towns. It isn't that I love or even like cities — I don't — but I like being employed. I don't like the noise, light, or other pollution of cities. Employment: it beats the alternative. Don't imagine cities are "attractive" to every migrating household. No, they simply are where we must go, and we must demand higher and higher salaries to afford those very cities, pushing the inequality gap wider and wider. 

Want to live near the great university where I work? Expect to spend $700K or more on a little, old, problems-included, house. Invest another $100K or more in renovations. Gentrification? It means, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it." 

Add to this the trend of like-marries-like, and you get two college-educated people living together. That pushes us even more towards cities with sufficient jobs. 

Curiously, the biggest metros are losing people, something Florida glosses over. New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are experiencing an exodus. Clearly, you cannot claim the "biggest" metros are growing, but that's what Florida claims:
Larger metros have the edge in attracting and retaining college grads. The size of the population was positively correlated to the net growth in the number of college grads (.30)
It would be more accurate to state that large metros, but not too large, seem attractive. I'm sorry, but there's a point at which a city is so big, it seems to fail. It might be geographically too large (Detroit) or the population is too large (New York) or some mix of both (Los Angeles).

Really, it is simple: I need a job. I go to where the job is, if I can afford to relocate. Young people, educated people, those with the means, can move. The poor cannot go chasing jobs easily, even though that might seem "reasonable" to some elites. Sorry, but moving from East L.A. to Charlotte isn't easy unless you have the financial means and no obligations to remain in L.A.

Florida is obsessed with his "Creative Class" and "liberal tolerance" theories. They might have merit, but he might also be overlooking basic economic sorting. If I can follow opportunities, I will. No matter where those might be.

Are Florida's team and their correlations accurate? Certainly, but models don't explain, they only can illustrate the data. The explanation is likely more complex than (paraphrasing) "Educated people seek out wonderful artistic cities with socially liberal views."

I sought a job. I doubt I'm alone.


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