Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Education, education, education

There is a large amount of research examining the determinants of city and metropolitan area growth. A dominant theme of this research is that differences in human capital, as measured by educational attainment, explain a great deal of the difference in economic performance between any two places. Government initiatives such as development tax credits, centrally directed resource allocation, and studies by think tanks, on the other hand, have not been found to be particularly important.

The table below illustrates how good a job the St. Louis area does in educating its youth, relative to the rest of the Midwest and to a successful peer metro area, Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The table provides educational attainment shares of those aged 18-24 from the American Community Survey for 2005-09. This age group is the most pertinent because it is mostly beyond high school age and, unlike older age groups, is less likely to have been affected by in- and out-migration. It is clear from the table that the St. Louis MSA as a whole, and the city of St. Louis in particular, lag in providing its young workers with education. Smaller shares of them have advanced to higher education, and larger shares dropped out of high school.

Our government leaders might look at this table before expending any more resources chasing after think tanks to "identify strategies by which to capitalize on (our) unique assets; specify catalytic products, policies, and interventions; and establish detailed operational and financial plans."