Geographic Divergence by Degrees


  • More college educated young adults (age 25 to 34 years old) are moving into the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul ranks 13th out of 51 large metropolitan areas in number of 25 to 34 year olds with a bachelor's degree
  • Younger college-educated adults are choosing to live closer to or within downtown areas and contribute greatly to an important economic resurgence of the urban core

More and more, college graduates tend to flock to areas that have a large population of other college graduates. A report released last month analyzed young college-educated adults (age 25 to 34 who have attained at least a bachelor's degree) and their increased preference to move and live, not just in the nation's larger metropolitan areas, but specifically in the urban core of those cities. Two-thirds of college graduates now live in one of the 51 metropolitan areas in the United States with a population of one million or more.

This research shows the population of college graduates are increasingly concentrated within a dozen cities and that this population is choosing to live close to the urban core.

Undergraduates Enrolled in Minnesota by Residence and Type of Institution Attended, Fall 2013

Percent change from 2000 to 2012 in number of 25 to 34 year olds with a degree

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Source: City Observatory


The Brookings Institute previously analyzed 100 metropolitan areas and the proportion of their total population with bachelor's degrees. For example, in 1970, 12 percent of adults living in the 100 largest metro areas had college degrees and nearly all metro areas were within five percentage points of the average. By 2010, 32 percent of adults living in the 100 largest metro areas had college degrees; however, those cities with a high percentage of the population with degrees is now concentrated within 10 metropolitan areas. In 2010, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area ranked 10th in the percent of the total population with a bachelor's degree (37.9 percent). This represents a 23.8 percentage point increase from 1970 (14.1 percent of Minneapolis-St. Paul area residents had a bachelor's degree in 1970). In the share of the population aged 25 to 34 with a bachelor's degree, the Twin Cities ranks 13th (out of 51 metropolitan areas with a population of one million or higher); this reflects the increase from 182,178 residents with a degree in 2000 to 220,933 in 2012. In 2012, the Twin Cities ranked eighth in the percent change of college-educated adults living in the area, from 39.9 percent in 2000 to 44.5 percent in 2012. An additional 36 percent of young adults with a bachelor's degree now live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul urban core, a change from 18,433 in 2000 to 25,156 in 2010.

Young Adults and Roles in Urban Areas

Young college-educated adults play a significant role in recent urban population growth and, more importantly, economic growth. They are helping to revitalize older, sometimes neglected or abandoned, industrial areas. This is seen in the growth of new housing and new restaurants in Minneapolis' North Loop and St. Paul's Lowertown areas.

By attracting businesses into these urban areas, young adults help drive economic growth by providing an increased demand for jobs in the service sector, such as restaurants and other amenities. For example, the Minneapolis Star Tribune recently noted the recent record-breaking number of new restaurants opening in or near downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul during 2014. A record number of upscale apartments and condominiums have also been built recently in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Urban planners are taking note of what amenities this demographic wants. Other favored amenities noted have been transportation options that include mass transit and dedicated biking routes. Microbreweries have also been mentioned as another trend favored by this demographic.

Forty years ago, when the "baby boomer" generation was in their mid-twenties, they made their mark on the nation's social and economic changes; now it is the Millennial Generation's turn.