San Francisco is listed as one of the best-educated cities nationwide, placing second to Seattle by a slim margin, according to a report released Monday. Not coincidentally, The City also had the highest housing prices.
The study, done by The Associated Press, noted that college graduates are choosing to work and live in big cities such as San Francisco, driving up home prices — and driving out other residents — in the process. Many of the largest cities have lost populations in recent decades, but nearly all have added college graduates.
The findings offer hope for urban areas, many of which have spent decades struggling with financial problems, job losses and high poverty rates.
Since 2000, San Francisco lost nearly 78,000 residents, a significant percentage of whom were under 18, while at the same time, single college graduates, ages 20 to 34, worked their way to The City, according to an economic outlook report released last week by Mayor Gavin Newsom's office.
The percentage of highly educated workers a city maintains is the largest predictor of its economic success, analysts say. Cities with few college graduates have a harder time generating high-paying jobs. That, in turn, makes it harder to attract college graduates.
"Education is so important in our knowledge-based economy," said Ted Egan, director of analysis for ICF Consulting in San Francisco, the firm that researched The City's new economic outlook report.
Nationally, a little more than 25 percent of people 25 years and older had at least a bachelor's degree in 2004; in San Francisco, 51 percent possessed the four-year degree. Workers with a university diploma earned an average of $72,850 — more than the national median of $42,404. By comparison, San Francisco residents with a high school diploma only brought in an average annual salary of $29,955, according to the ICF report.
"We have a concentration of educated workers that you don’t find in other areas," San Francisco Chamber of Commerce President Steve Falk said. "The door is wide open for San Francisco at this point."
Of course, popularity has its price, and in San Francisco it’s $662,000 — the median home price in 2004 — the highest cost of the cities surveyed and more than four times the national median of $151,000.
"That’s why our continued focus on affordable housing is important," Falk said.