Cities: educated and indebted
Thomson Reuters Municipal Market Data muniland expert Daniel Berger reminded me of a report that I had forgotten about that shows the correlations between the low credit ratings of Ohio’s cities and the cities’ very low levels of college graduates. Dan posits that Ohio, as part of America’s Rust Belt, didn’t require high levels of education for staff at its manufacturing plants and, accordingly, didn’t develop large college-educated workforces. As manufacturing moved out of the region, it left behind cities where the workforce was not attractive to high-tech industries and other sectors that required more educated workers. The cities declined and their credit ratings suffered. Such is the devastating effect of globalization.
I thought it might be interesting to chart some of the data in Daniel’s report (page 6) for America’s largest cities. Interestingly the data suggests that, contrary to Daniel’s findings for Ohio cities, that the more educated a city is, the lower its credit rating (see chart above). Or put another way, the dumb cities are getting higher grades. Quelle surprise!
After posing this question on Twitter two responses stuck out:
Both Morally Bankrupt and John Carney seem to be on to the answer. There might also be a tendency in the bond markets to lend more to cities with more educated, and possibly better paid, taxpayers. Higher levels of debt generally equal lower credit ratings. It’s an interesting finding from the data and one that should be explored more.