Dallas Losing at the Competition of Cities

I believe in constant, honest self-evaluation.  Only through doing so can you really evaluate how you’re doing at a given task.  If the competition at hand is attracting highly educated young people, Dallas isn’t doing so hot.  We’ve talked about this a little bit before when I compared 07-13 population growth of 18-34 year olds to bicycle commuting, but as I add data to the spreadsheets the numbers aren’t getting any better.  Only through accurate assessment of data, can we form the feedback loops necessary to assess and possibly recalibrate whether past and on-going policies.

Young, educated people are an indicator species for a positive future.  The phrase ‘job creators’ gets thrown around recklessly and uncritically, but these are the real job creators, creating 4 net jobs for every young educated person a city adds (I read this somewhere recently and need to track down the source material).

The data from 2007 to 2013 interested me because so many cities have experienced a rebirth in that time span.  Unlike from 2000 to 2007 where many lost young people and incomes fell pretty drastically.  The reverse has been happening recently.  Incomes have begun to reverse course in many cities, cities are gaining college graduates, and young people are increasing in nearly every single city.  It wasn’t a question of which cities are doing well, it was which are doing better than others and why.

So I decided to look a little further back to 2000 in terms of both educated and young adults.  This is where it gets a bit disconcerting for the city of Dallas if not ominous.  I looked into the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree in the 30 largest US cities from 2000 to 2013.  Then I also looked into the percentage of the population that is 18-34.  The thinking being, ‘what cities are adding the most (for lack of a better word) talent?’  Where young, educated people are flocking there is a pretty good chance they are going to set down roots in those places, start jobs and often families.

Interestingly and positively, every one of the top 30 US cities increased its share of college graduates.  Of course, some added more than others.  Those adding the greatest percentage include:

1.  Baltimore – 43.78%

2. DC – 36.91%

3. Philadelphia – 36.43%

4. Portland – 36.14%

5. Chicago – 34.8%

Baltimore and Philadelphia had low percentages of college graduates to begin with, so they’re increase is not unexpected but should also be lauded.  DC and Portland on the other hand have very high degrees of education to begin with and only got better.  DC, Seattle, and San Francisco are the only cities with over 50% of adults with college degrees. Unsurprisingly, these cities are also doing well in terms of median income growth.

Here is how the bottom of that chart looks:

30.  Dallas – 7.12%

29. Indianapolis – 7.64%

28. Houston – 11.05%

27. Charlotte – 11.27%

26. Austin – 13.57%

Interesting how three major Texas cities show up here.  Nearly every other city is in at least the 20s.  It should be noted that Austin already had a high education level.  By 2013, it had over 45% of adults with college degrees whereas Dallas and Houston are both below 30%.

As I mentioned, 2000-07 was rougher on cities than the following 6 years.  However, when we look at the overall population gain/loss from 2000-2013 we get the following ‘winners’ and ‘losers’:

1.  Fort Worth – 25.98%

2.  Charlotte – 24.64%

3.  DC – 21.62%

4.  El Paso – 20%

5.  San Antonio – 18.45%


30.  Detroit – (-38.82%

29.  Dallas – (-5.32%)

28.  Chicago – (-3.80%)

27.  San Jose – (3.32%)

26.  San Francisco – (-0.40%)

Interestingly, some Texas cities show up again at the top, albeit different ones.  As for the bottom 5, Detroit is expected though grimly high population loss.  Dallas didn’t lose nearly as many, but still ranks second to last.  Then we have some interesting case studies.  Chicago was increasing its education level significantly during this period.  It also rebounded pretty nicely during 07-13, adding 57,000 young adults, but not enough to bring it back into positive net numbers.  San Jose and San Francisco are surely suffering from very high housing prices, but there is a tale of two cities within one mega region going on here.  From 07-13 San Francisco added 30% growth while San Jose only muddled along at 10%.  If the young people are going to pay high prices, they want the urban amenities that go with it.

Since population growth isn’t telling without context, we have to compare it to education level too.  Doing so, we get the following chart:

Young and Educated
Young and Educated

That hurts.  Sometimes the truth needs to.  It’s time for a new direction, where we start focusing on building a city of the future rather than following 20th century policies down intellectual and physical cul-de-sacs.


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