PITTSBURGH — Once defined by heavy-industry and blue-collar masses, Pittsburgh now hosts the fifth most educated young workforce in the United States, a distinction that groups the city with such bastions of erudition as Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., according to a recent report in the Pittsburgh Economic Quarterly published by the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR).
UCSUR regional economist Chris Briem used information collected by the U.S. Census Bureau to compare the educational attainment of workers aged 25 to 34 in Pittsburgh and the country’s top 40 metropolitan areas. This age bracket provides a truer sense of a local workforce’s collective learnedness and of a region’s economic competitiveness, Briem said. People this age typically have completed their education, entered the workforce, and are often highly sought by employers. This younger cohort also tends to have had more formal education than previous generations, particularly in cities with a history of heavy industry that provided career-long jobs without requiring advanced degrees, Briem added.
Of working Pittsburghers in this demographic, 48.1 percent have earned at least a bachelor’s degree; this exceeds the national average of 34.7 percent for the same age group (see figure 1 below). Leading the nation is Boston with 56 percent followed by San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Austin (figure 2).
Narrow the category to 25- to 34-year-olds who have earned a graduate or professional degree and Pittsburgh fares even better, joining Washington, D.C., in leading the nation with 21.5 percent (figure 4). Boston, ranked third, hovers around 19 percent. On the opposite end of the education spectrum, Pittsburgh exhibits the lowest percentage of workers 25 to 34 without a high school diploma or equivalent, with a meager 2.2 percent; Houston leads with 19.5 (figure 3).
When the educational attainment of Pittsburgh workers as a whole is categorized by age, it provides a profound illustration of the city’s well-known post-industrial transition, Briem wrote. For the 35-to-44 and 45-to-54 groups, the percentage of those with at least a bachelor’s degree decreases and remains only slightly above the national average, falling below the national average for those aged 55 to 64 (figure 1). For Pittsburgh workers over the age of 65, the formally educated comprise only 24.4 percent, a full 10 points lower than the national average for the same group.
The full Pittsburgh Economic Quarterly article is available on the UCSUR Web site at www.ucsur.pitt.edu/files/peq/peq_2010-03.pdf