The ability to attract skilled workers is a key factor, if not the key factor, in the growth of cities and metro regions. Cities themselves are understandably keen to tout when their populations are growing, but just tracking overall population can mask the underlying trends that will truly shape the future of our metro areas.
A few weeks ago, I looked at the different places both recent immigrants and U.S.-born Americans are moving since the recession began. But, as I noted then, even these big-picture figures tell us little about the educational levels and skills of the people that are moving and staying. Writing in The Atlantic several years ago, I pointed out that the “means migration”—the movement of highly educated and highly skilled people—is a key factor that shapes which cities will thrive and which will struggle.
What the United States has been seeing is, so to speak, a big talent sort. There have been very different patterns of migration by education and skill, with the highly educated and highly skilled going some places and the less educated and less skilled going to others.