Monday, October 27, 2008

Brainy Burgh

An opinion piece in the New York Times is making the Burghophile rounds. At issue is the open disdain the GOP is showing towards the brainiest cities of America, where Obama has a commanding lead in the polls. Apparently, Pittsburgh is not located in Sarah Palin's real America:

Two years ago, a list of the nation’s brainiest cities was put together from Census Bureau reports — that is, cities with the highest percentage of college graduates, which is not the same as smart, of course.

These are vibrant, prosperous places where a knowledge economy and cool things to do after hours attract people from all over the country. Among the top 10, only two of those metro areas — Raleigh, N.C., and Lexington, Ky. — voted Republican in the 2004 presidential election.

This year, all 10 are likely to go Democratic. What’s more, with Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia now trending blue, Republicans stand to lose the nation’s 10 best-educated states as well.

It would be easy to say these places are not the real America, in the peculiar us-and-them parlance of Sarah Palin. It’s easy to say because Republicans have been insinuating for years now that some of the brightest, most productive communities in the United States are fake American — a tactic that dates to Newt Gingrich’s reign in the capitol.

Brainy cities have low divorce rates, low crime, high job creation, ethnic diversity and creative capitalism. They’re places like Pittsburgh, with its top-notch universities; Albuquerque, with its surging Latino middle class; and Denver, with its outdoor-loving young people. They grow good people in the smart cities.

Champions of Pittsburgh adore such platitudes and the city craves the positive press. But I'm almost certain that Pittsburgh is not listed in the top 10 brainiest cities in the United States. The rankings I've seen usually put Seattle on top with Pittsburgh chiming in around 20th place. As for "high job creation, ethnic diversity and creative capitalism," even the biggest booster would admit that there is a lot of catching up to do.

Perhaps I haven't unearthed the brainy city list the author references. I have read something that might explain why Pittsburgh merits mention along side of such illustrious company. Pittsburgh is a college city with second greatest percentage of residents enrolled in undergraduate or graduate school. In that regard, only Providence, RI is "brainier." Pittsburgh is better than Boston, Austin, and even Seattle.

Pittsburgh is a smart city, which would likely surprise even the people who live there.

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