Statistically, smarter people tend to move to cities, and in the U.S., smart people are moving out west. Colorado is one of the most attractive states for smarter Americans. It boasts three of the top 10 cities in Bloomberg’s Brain Concentration Index, including top city, Boulder, Colo. Four of the top five cities were located in the West, while the bottom five cities were all located in the eastern U.S.
Tech jobs are driving growth in the top five cities. Boulder is currently a hub for such jobs — it’s a tech incubator and home to the University of Colorado. Cities at the bottom of the list lack opportunities in the tech field.
Heading out West
Four of the top five cities on the list were located out West, with Washington, D.C., the only exception. The list focused on cities that provided the best opportunities for STEM jobs. Jobs in STEM fields have been called the future of the economy — the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 9 million jobs will be created in the STEM sector between 2012 and 2022. The cities also are included near the top of U.S. News and World Report’s top 100 Best Places to Live in the U.S.
San Francisco and San Jose are near the top of the list given their proximity to Silicon Valley. Colorado has become a go-to destination for tech jobs as well. Topping the list is Boulder, which, despite being a small college town, ranks better than larger cities in business formation as well as employment and availability of educational opportunities toward STEM careers. As tech companies are opening offices outside of Silicon Valley, these Colorado cities have reaped the benefits.
Denver, also in the top 10, was the fastest growing large city in the country last year — a spot previously held by Austin and Seattle, fellow beneficiaries of a tech boom. Other cities in the top 10 feature the same characteristics as Denver; they’re all located in areas rich with tech and higher education opportunities.
East Coast brain drain
While things are looking up for the West, this population shift hurts some towns and cities in the eastern half of the U.S. Despite their proximity to areas that are experiencing growth and prosperity, cities such as Greensboro, North Carolina and Muskegon, Michigan are seeing a decline in economic opportunities.
These cities are having a hard time reinventing their economy. Much of the East was once an industrial hub, but shifts in the economy have led to outsourcing and the current trend of talent migrating west, where there’s more demand for their particular skills. Cities on both coasts are hurting from outsourcing, but the East Coast has lost more jobs. This drain also hurts a city’s tax base, making it harder to maintain infrastructure, education, and services, which bring in more investments.
Takeaway: The West provides more opportunities for STEM careers
While all of the STEM opportunities are not exclusively controlled by the West, that region holds more opportunities. Tech companies are branching out from their original Silicon Valley locations due to the region’s high costs, and smaller, large cities in the U.S. are receiving the outflow. Lower costs of living also drive residents to these cities. While it’s not quite experiencing a brain drain, San Francisco’s costs are driving people to look at cities such as Denver and Boulder, where the cost of living is lower, and tech jobs are available.
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