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Report: Compared with peer cities, Louisville has biggest gain in number of adults with degrees

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Sept. 26, 2012) — Louisville has the highest rate of improvement in young adults with bachelor’s degrees or higher when compared with peer cities such as Cincinnati, Nashville and Indianapolis, according to a recent report by the Greater Louisville Project (GLP).

The 2012 Competitive City report provides updates on the GLP’s key Deep Drivers of Change for Education, 21st Century Jobs and Quality of Place. The report also introduces a new frame for 21st Century Jobs – the Innovation Economy.

Louisville had an increase in number of young adults (ages 25-34) who reside there. Since 2000, Louisville added 7,200 young adults, providing evidence that the 20-year brain drain may be reversing and becoming a “brain gain,” according to Greater Louisville Inc.

The percentage growth in young adults ranks Louisville fifth among its peers, cracking the top tier. Louisville also was ranked No. 1 among cities on their ability to attract and retain young people with college degrees, outpacing cities like Portland (No. 2), Seattle (No. 3), Dallas-Fort Worth (No. 4) and Austin (No. 8), according to a study by Portland State University released Sept. 19.

Key findings in the Deep Drivers of Change, areas of engagement with the richest opportunity for important change, include:


An increase of over 8,000 young adults with bachelor’s degrees or higher between 2000 and 2010 has propelled Louisville into first place in the rate of improvement among peer cities. In this same period, the racial education gap has remained with only 16.5 percent of African-American adults holding a degree compared to 33 percent of white adults. Progress on all fronts is necessary if Louisville is to achieve its Deep Driver goal of 40 percent of the working-age population with college degrees.

Quality of Place

An increase of young adults over the last decade may signify the reversal of Louisville’s 20-year brain drain. However, while Louisville’s population grew 7 percent during the past decade, many surrounding counties grew at a faster rate, thus threatening the core density that is crucial to the city’s vitality. Strengthening the city’s role as an employment and population center is imperative. It is noted that regional economic partnerships with Lexington and along the I-65 corridor offer game-changing strategies to increase Louisville’s national and international footprint.

21st Century Jobs

Louisville has continued its advancement up the peer cities ranking of employment in professional and technical jobs, moving from 12th to eighth place since 2000. With about 37 percent of its residents employed in these types of jobs, it is still short of the Deep Driver goal of 40 percent. Two alarming indicators reveal bottom tier rankings for Louisville – job and wage growth. These indicators are important because they directly shape the standard of living of the region’s families.

Boone named new director

GLP’s newly appointed director, Christen Boone, will lead the project’s efforts to act as a civic catalyst toward a shared agenda for long-term progress. She will manage the strategic work of the policy board, oversee research and data analysis, develop the annual Competitive City report, manage new initiatives and serve as the spokesperson for the GLP. She is taking over for Carolyn Gatz, the founding director, who is leaving to focus on her work with The Brookings Institution.

Boone previously served as Director of External Relations for 21st Century Parks, where she established the brand for The Parklands of Floyds Fork, developed the education program, led communications and outreach initiatives, and raised more than $115 million.

“This is an exciting time to step into this role at the Greater Louisville Project,” Boone said. “Through a decade of data research and analysis, the Greater Louisville Project has been a catalyst for civic action and has worked collaboratively to develop a shared agenda for long-term progress for this city. I look forward to building upon this foundation and working with leaders from across the community to help build a stronger and more vibrant city.”

The Greater Louisville Project is an independent, non-partisan civic initiative organized by The Community Foundation of Louisville and supported by a consortium of philanthropic foundations that includes The James Graham Brown Foundation, Brown-Forman, The C. E. & S. Foundation, The JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Gheens Foundation, The Humana Foundation and the Stephen Reily and Emily Bingham Fund. Its mission is to act as a catalyst for civic action by providing research and data analysis to engage the community in a shared agenda for long-term progress.

The report was prepared by staff of the Greater Louisville Project: Elisabeth Alkire and Julia Inman, with data and analysis provided by Michael Price of the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville, Dr. Uric Dufrene of Indiana University Southeast and Barry Kornstein in the Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville.