Ithaca Is #1 City for Recent College Graduates. Huh?
Posted by Cornell Insider Staff on May 29, 2010
Jerry Seinfeld: She lives with her parents.
George Costanza: Maybe this will become like a cool thing, living with your parents.
Jerry Seinfeld: Yeah, then maybe baldness will catch on.
Great news for those Class of 2010 graduates who are taking some “time off” to er..hang around Ithaca for a couple of weeks, or months, or semesters after graduating. You’ll be living in the #1 city for recent college graduates! Forget all those overachievers who are working at investment banks in New York City (#9), the federal government in Washingtion, D.C. (#7), or law firms in Los Angeles (#21), you’ve got it made! Who cares about all the glamorous sights and sounds of the big cities, the bar scene, the clubs, the nightlife. Ithaca has plenty of attractions to offer. “Downtown there’s a mall that was once a high school, a citywide arts festival, and a healthy history of social innovation”(thedailybeast.com). Here are the other cities rounding out the top 10!
1) Ithaca, NY
2) Madison, WI
3) Ann Arbor, MI
4) Durham, NC
5) Austin-Round Rock, TX
6) Boulder, CO
7) Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
8 ) Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH
9) New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
10) Iowa City, IA
But let’s get down to business here. Of course, my intention here is not to mock the beautiful city that I’ve come to know and love these past two years, but to figure out exactly how it was determined to be the top hotspot for recent grads in their “twentysomethings.” According to the website that put together the rankings, nine “core” criteria were used: presence of 20-24 year olds in the population, share of unmarried people, earnings potential, unemployment rate, presence of college educated workforce, availability of rental housing, availability of youth-oriented amenities, plus “creative capital” and “openness.”
Now it’s starting to make a bit more sense. Positive ratings in a number of these categories are highly correlated with whether or not the city is a college town, and the writers acknowledge this themselves: “College towns dominate the top spots. Ithaca is first followed by Madison, Wisconsin; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Durham, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; and Boulder Colorado. That may seem a bit surprising to the legions of new grads who are off to the big city.” Yeah, you think?
But there’s more: “When we were building our index we found that small shifts in the datasets we used and how they were weighted would reorder the cities near the top, but the picks in the top 25 remained surprisingly consistent. Ithaca, for example, always made the top 25, but adding the last two variables to the index raised its rank from 14th to first.” So what exactly do the “creative capital” and “openness” metrics measure? Creative capital is “measured as the share of employed artists, musicians, actors, dancers, writers, designers, and entertainers in the workforce.” Openness is “the share of gays and lesbians and foreign-born residents in a community.” Yeah, these two metrics could have definitely propelled Ithaca into the top spot.
The biggest thing that’s wrong with these rankings is their general implausibility. Sure, there are rankings out there that we don’t all necessarily agree with (cough Forbes college rankings cough), but who actually graduates from Michigan and then aspires to move Ithaca to find work? Or what Cornell graduates really have their sights set on Ann Arbor? It makes sense if you’re attending grad school, but then you wouldn’t really fit the profile of what most people would call a “recent college grad.”