More than half of all “power couples” – couples in which both spouses are college graduates – live in large metropolitan areas (MSAs) with more than two million residents. What causes the concentration of well-educated couples in big cities" A new study from the Journal of Labor Economics disputes prior research suggesting power couples migrate to large MSAs. Instead, the researchers argue that college-educated singles are more likely to move to big cities where they meet, date, marry, and divorce other college-educated people. In other words, power couples don’t move to big cities intact – they’re formed there. This finding has important implications for city planners hoping to attract a well-educated workforce.
In 1970, 39 percent of power couples lived in a metropolitan area of at least two million residents. By 1990 this number had grown substantially: Fifty percent of all power couples lived in a big city. In contrast, couples in which neither spouse has a college degree have the lowest probability of living in a large city and the lowest rate of increase, growing from 30 percent to 34 percent in the same twenty year period.
Using data from a large-scale statistical study of 4,800 families (Panel Study on Income Dynamics), Janice Compton (University of Manitoba) and Robert A. Pollak (Washington University and National Bureau of Economic Research) argue that couple migration patterns to large metropolitan areas are influenced gendered determinants – couples in which the man has a college degree are far more likely to move to a metropolitan area than couples in which only the woman has a college degree.
Tango’s Take Is this spectacular news? Probably not. With our cities growing exponentially over this time period doesn’t it stand to reason that more people would live in them? There has to be way more MSA’s with a population greater than 2 million now than in 1970. Had people in other parts of the country even heard of Atlanta and Minneapolis in 1970? The brunt of the article is not that half of couples in which both partners have a college degree live in cities, but more importantly that they met in cities. Most of this is not terribly surprising, but we suppose that we’re grateful someone conducted the study. Bright young things move to the cities, find an equally bright young spouse, get hitched, pop out a kid or two, need more space, move to the suburbs, buy an Audi and a SUV and start voting Republican. The thing that most interested us was that the migratory patterns of couples with a college-educated woman and non-college-educated man were most similar to those of a non-college-educated couple. This seems a touch antiquated. Are men scared to move to the city without a degree and rely on their partner to be ‘the brains’? Are there more opportunities to be successful without a degree in less urban settings? We would like to see a little more data on this.