Population Change in the 1990s and 2000s:
“The whites who live in Scranton are disproportionately stupid low-class whites”. So said blogger Half-Sigma, citing “Wikipedia”. Commenter Joe Walker wrote: “the younger, better educated whites [have probably] moved [from Scranton] to places like New York City”. This does seem an attractive theory to explain the trends seen here (albeit able to easily devolve into Chicken-or-Egg-ism). But is it true? [Note: The post "Most- and Least-Educated U.S. Metro Areas" was inspired by his comments.]
Scranton vs. Boise: Uneducated Backwater vs. Ivory-Tower Utopia?
Q. Does Scranton Metro have a very-low share of college graduates while Boise Metro has a high share of graduates, as Half-Sigma claimed?
A. It depends on age-bracket. Among young adults, no. Among older adults, yes.
Here are the numbers:
Percent Holding a College Degree, 2008, By Age and Locality
|Age-Range||USA||Scranton Metro||Scranton City||Boise Metro||Boise City|
Among young-adults, Scranton-Metro is better-educated than Boise Metro.
Half-Sigma’s theory, that “stupid” Scranton loses droves of its smart youth, is wrong.
In more depth: Half-Sigma’s Wikipedia-scholarship is weak on two grounds:
1.) Uneducated Retirees, So What? A lesson in statistical distortion. “Scranton has a low share of college graduates”. Well, technically yes: But if you break it down by age bracket, it is clear that this only applies to the older Scrantonites. Among young-adults, Scranton Metro is more educated than Boise Metro. Boise Metro is ranked #72 in percentage of young-adults holding a degree among the USA’s 100 largest metros. Scranton Metro would rank #58, if it were big enough to be on the list. (You can check the numbers for any metro area here, by clicking “change geography” at the left). Young-adults are the most mobile, they are the ones who drive population increase or decrease. So we will have to look elsewhere than “Scranton is a moron’s haven” to explain its ongoing population decline.
2.) Core-City vs. Metro Area: The metropolitan-area is the entity of economic-significance today, not the core-city. “Scranton” may refer to a jurisdiction with 72,000 residents (Scranton City), or to a metropolitan area with 549,000 people (Scranton Metro, colloquially “Wyoming Valley”). Boise is the same: 205,000 in Boise City versus 600,000 in Boise Metro. As you can see in the above chart, Scranton’s Core-City is a bit depressed, but its Metro is not — when it comes to young-adults — in terms of education.
Measuring by core-city alone opens one up to wild distortions of reality: One would wonder what kind of stupid backwater Washington-DC was for the three or four decades that the District lost population. Washington-DC proper has 650,000 residents; DC Metro has 5.5-million and is actually the second-most-educated of the 100 largest metro areas in the USA.
All the same, Boise’s Core-City is better off than Scranton’s. Boise’s most-economically-valuable (educated) elements live in its core-city. The outerlying areas in Boise Metro drag it down. The Scranton region is the precise opposite. Why these two cities have opposite patterns in this way would be an interesting thing to investigate. It probably has to do with Boise being a new city, never developing a “depressed inner-city”. I believe people naturally want density and not sprawl, but various social trends in the USA prevent this. Except in certain cases, like the Pacific Northwest, and — it seems — Boise. (But I repeat myself?).
Prediction: As Scranton Metro’s young-adults have all-but caught up to the USA’s average in college-degree attainment, Scranton-Metro will stop losing population in the coming years.