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Oakland University SBA Data Center

25 to 34 Year Olds with a 4 Year College Degree

A recent report from City Observatory by Joe Cortright highlights the importance of 25 to 34 year olds with a bachelor degree or higher level of education in fueling economic growth and urban revitalization in large metropolitan areas. The availability of talented young workers plays a key role in the formation and growth of new firms. Businesses are increasingly locating near urban centers to better tap into the growing pool of well-educated workers and recruit talent from elsewhere.


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The Detroit-Warren-Livonia metro area ranks low in the growth of talented young workers, the percentage of these workers in the population, and the number living in close-in neighborhoods (neighborhoods within 3 miles of the center of the regions principal central business district). It ranks 51st out of 51 metro areas and is the only area registering a decline from 2000 to 2012 in the number of 25 to 34 year olds with a college degree. The decline was 18,904 or 10.5 percent. In 2000 the local region was 10th in total talented young workers, and in 2012 the local area ranked 17th. In 2012 Metro Detroit ranked 45th out of 51 metro areas in 25 to 34 year olds with a BA Degree as a percent of the total population (3.8%). Metro Detroit experienced an absolute population decline between 2000 and 2012, and had a faster decline among more well-educated young workers. Metro Detroit is also the only region that experienced a decline in the number of talented young workers living in close-in neighborhoods.

A related report from the American Institute for Economic Research has similar findings. This report ranks metro areas as a destination where young college graduates want to live and work. Economic and quality of life factors are considered. Quality of life factors represent 68 percent of the index and include: share of population age 22+ with a college degree, share of commuters not dependent on a car, bars and restaurants per 1,000 residents, and a racial and ethnic diversity index. Metro Detroit ranks 48 out of 51 large metro areas (population greater than 1 million). Ann Arbor ranks first among small metro areas (those with population between 250,000 and 499,999).

Attracting and retaining young college educated workers is imperative for Metro Detroit to experience faster, sustainable economic and wage growth. The movement of Quicken Loans from suburban Livonia to downtown Detroit, the recent decision by Gas Station TV and Fifth Third Bank to move to downtown Detroit from Birmingham and Southfield respectively, the extensive developments by Dan Gilbert in downtown Detroit, the light rail line on Woodward Ave, the new hockey arena and entertainment complex, the opening of restaurants and Whole Foods, and the Detroit renewal after bankruptcy all are positive developments that can begin to reverse Metro Detroit’s low standing in retaining and attracting 25 to 34 year olds with a college degree.

Laura Tack, Research Assistant
Jonathan Silberman, PhD

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