Skip to main content

Demographically Speaking, Cleveland Is Outperforming Chicago

And other findings from a couple of thought-provoking troublemakers.
  • Author:
  • Updated:
Cleveland State University at seen from Euclid Avenue. (Photo: SarahSphar/Flickr)

Cleveland State University at seen from Euclid Avenue. (Photo: SarahSphar/Flickr)

On Tuesday, Cleveland State University announced the launch of the Center for Population Dynamics within the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs. Richey Piiparinen will serve as director of the new center. Levin College Dean Edward "Ned" Hill had this to say about bringing Richey on board:

"We can't wait to have the community's new, thought-provoking troublemaker working for us," Hill said, adding that he expects Piiparinen to add a fresh perspective to issues of housing policy and economic development. "He brings a new voice to the question of how we confront the future."

Emphasis added. Via this site, I aspire to be a thought-provoking troublemaker. In that sense, Richey and I are kindred spirits who have been working toward that end over the last two years. I will continue to collaborate with Richey while he runs the center, at least for 2014.

I like to call what we do, "ironic demography." We dig into the data and look for surprises. Citing a recent example, the U.S. Census had a February numbers dump that didn't cast Chicago (Cook County) in a flattering light:

As the Great Recession churned job prospects for many, Cook County lost about 13,000 residents with six-figure household incomes to other places, despite the widely hyped revival of downtown housing and jobs.

Between 2007 and 2011, Chicago and its immediate suburbs also ended up with about 10,000 fewer residents with a bachelor's degree or higher, even after accounting for new arrivals, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's first attempt to track population shifts by income and education at the county level. ...

... “Wow, the movement back to the center that a lot of urban planners in the region were hoping for isn't borne out by this data,” says Rich Greene, associate professor of geography and urban studies at Northern Illinois University. “It's counter to what we've all been reading about.”

Tongue in cheek, Chicago is dying. Rich Greene's comment demonstrates how unexpected the data are. The urban core is bleeding talent. Ironic? I think so.

Things might look bad in Chicago. How about Cleveland? Surely the Mistake on the Lake can relieve a bit of the burden from Chicago's big shoulders. Cleveland, we'll keep the river on for you. Yes, Cleveland must be worse than Chicago. Sorry:

The census estimates show that Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, gained about 3,450 more highly educated people than it lost. An estimated 25,450 adults with at least some college experience came to the county while about 22,000 left.

In the same data dump, Cleveland (Cuyahoga County) is experiencing brain gain. Chicago (Cook County) has brain drain. Great story, but thought-provoking troublemakers have to be careful. We haven't replicated the Cook County numbers. We did check Cuyahoga County. Suffice to say, we aren't so ebullient.

I bet the ironic story line will hold. Richey is skeptical. We'll see who is right soon enough. That is what we do at the Center for Population Dynamics at Cleveland State University.