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Urban researchers explore Cleveland’s ‘Brain Gain’

Shifting demographics, strategic pathways to help progress

By Jaclyn Seymour

June 19, 2014

Cleveland State University’s Center for Population Dynamics report discovers that Cleveland is on the incline, not the picture most Clevelanders imagine, and these results are going national.

Richey Piiparinen, senior research associate at the center in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, and Jim Russell, a research consultant, argue that a more diverse Cleveland will become a more-employed Cleveland.

Richey Piiparinen

Piiparinen and Russell have found that Cleveland has seen an increase in well-educated people in “Globalizing Cleveland: A Path Forward” published by Cleveland State.

Forbes Magazine journalist, Joel Kotkin, cited the study, sees the trend and expects the “brain gain” in Cleveland to continue.

“Rather than a metro area left behind by the information revolution, Cleveland boasts an increasingly youthful workforce that is among the better educated in the nation,” Kotkin said in his Forbes.com article.

From 2000-2012, Cleveland increased by 60,000 people who graduated college 25 years or older, and lost 70,000 people without a degree, according to the report.

The number of college-educated people 25-34 years old in the greater Cleveland area increased 23 percent from 2006 to 2012, with an 11 percent increase from 2011 to 2012.

Most of the well-educated people who came into the Cleveland area migrated from another state.

Atlanta and Detroit were the biggest contributors for those who migrated with a bachelor’s degree.

Chicago, Manhattan and Brooklyn sent the most individuals with a graduate or professional degree. Pittsburgh highly contributed to both.

“Tomorrow’s economy is going to be about our leading age groups,” Piiparinen said to Cleveland.com. “There really is a brain gain going on, and it goes against what everybody’s been thinking.”

Piiparinen and Russell refer to Cleveland as a “Rust Belt city.”

They say that census reports often reflect Rust Belt Cities in an unfair manner because they take brief glances at the regions, but they say it is more plausible to look at the region’s education level actual workforce and its new residents and there is where Cleveland comes in.

Piiparinen told Cleveland.com that it is great for Cleveland.

“That’s phenomenal,” Piiparinen said. “Even though we don’t get quantity, the quality is world class.”

Piiparinen and Russell say that Cleveland has seen the increase because of the prestigious health care and hospitals, however, the Rust Belt Cities have a high economic impact because of their local economy.

They are dependent on their manufacturing, Kotkin said in the Forbes article.

Kotkin also mentioned to not expect a huge economic boost like Houston has seen.

“The key here is melding the “legacy” strengths of these regions with shifting demographic and economic forces,” Kotkin said in the Forbes article.

“The region is not only home to abandoned steel mills, but also six of the country’s top 20 graduate engineering programs, according to U.S. News & World Report. The intellectual capital is there.”

Affordable housing is also a pro on Cleveland’s side of the list.

“If the opportunity is recognized by a new generation, the future could prove surprisingly bright in what has long been seen as a fading region,” Kotkin published.

The “Globalizing Cleveland: A Path Forward” report is the second installment in a three-part series from the Center of Population Dynamics in the Maxine Goodman Levine College of Urban Affairs.

The first installment, “From Balkanized Cleveland to Global Cleveland” was published in 2013.

This outlined a theory of change for the Greater Cleveland area involving economic and community development.

The third installment will outline strategic pathways for helping the Greater Cleveland area progress into a globalized world.

Piiparinen is a Senior Research Associate at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State.

His focus is in migration, demography, culture and economic and community development.
He is a co-editor of the book “Rust Belt Chic: A Cleveland Anthology,” and a contributing editor at New Geography.

Piiparinen’s writings have been published in NPR’s Morning Edition, Salon, Huffington Post, CBC’s Ideas, the Atlantic Cities, Cleveland Magazine, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and numerous local periodicals, radio, and television broadcasts.

He earned a graduate degree in Urban Planning and Design at Cleveland State, but has also earned a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology from Roosevelt University.
More on the Brain Gain in Cleveland can be seen at

www.facebook.com/BrainGainCleveland and www.braingaincleveland.com.