Interpreting the Geography of Human Capital Stock Variations

  • Rachel S. FranklinEmail author
Part of the New Frontiers in Regional Science: Asian Perspectives book series (NFRSASIPER, volume 40)


A wealth of research has documented the importance of human capital for economic growth and development. While much of this body of research focuses on estimating the relationship between some economic outcome and, generally, levels of educational attainment, a subsidiary corpus of research has developed that focuses on documenting and explaining the geographic variation in human capital stocks that exists. The popular press, in its turn, has also adopted human capital stocks as a proxy for urban and regional vibrancy. Little attention has been focused on what, in fact, constitutes a talent or human capital magnet and how different measures of a seemingly straightforward concept might not only generate different results but might also be capturing more than simply levels of educational attainment. This chapter uses data on educational attainment—the share of the population with at least a college degree—for US metropolitan areas in 2000 and 2010 to conceptualize what is meant by a human capital or talent magnet and to highlight a few ways in which results might be driven by definition and measure. Of particular interest are the roles of age structure, migration, and relative performance.


Human capital Labor markets Talent Migration Age structure Shift-share analysis 


  1. Abel JR, Deitz R (2012) Do colleges and universities increase their region’s human capital? J Econ Geogr 12:667–691. Scholar
  2. Arias E (2014) United States life tables, 2010. Natl Vital Stat Rep 63(7)Google Scholar
  3. Bauer PW, Schweitzer ME, Shane SA (2012) Knowledge matters: the long-run determinants of State income growth. J Reg Sci 52:240–255. Scholar
  4. Becker GS (1964) Human capital theory. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown WM, Newbold KB, Beckstead D (2010) Growth and change in human capital across the Canadian Urban hierarchy, 1996–2001. Urban Stud 47:1571–1586. Scholar
  6. Burd, CA (2013) Metropolitan migration flows of the creative class by occupation using 3-year 2006–2008 and 2009–2011 American Community Survey Data. US Census Bureau working paper number 2013-11. Last accessed 8 Dec 2017 at:
  7. Corcoran J, Faggian A (2017) Graduate migration and regional development: an international perspective. Edward Elgar Publishing, CheltenhamCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Faggian A, Franklin RS (2014) Human capital redistribution in the USA: The migration of the college-bound. Spat Econ Anal 9:376–395. Scholar
  9. Faggian A, McCann P (2006) Human capital flows and regional knowledge assets: a simultaneous equation approach. Oxf Econ Pap 58:475–500. Scholar
  10. Faggian A, McCann P, Sheppard S (2007) Human capital, higher education and graduate migration: an analysis of Scottish and Welsh students. Urban Stud 44:2511–2528. Scholar
  11. Faggian A, Corcoran J, Rowe F (2017) Special issue on youth and graduate migration. Ann Reg Sci 59:571–575. Scholar
  12. Florida R (2002) The economic Geography of talent. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 92:743–755. Scholar
  13. Florida R (2014) The rise of the creative class—revisited: revised and expanded. Basic Books (AZ), New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Florida R, Mellander C, Stolarick K (2008) Inside the black box of regional development—human capital, the creative class and tolerance. J Econ Geogr 8:615–649. Scholar
  15. Franklin RS (2003) Migration of the young, single, and college educated: 1995 to 2000 US Census Bureau, CensusGoogle Scholar
  16. Franklin RS (2014) An examination of the Geography of population composition and change in the United States, 2000–2010: insights from Geographical indices and a shift–share analysis. Popul Space Place 20:18–36. Scholar
  17. Franklin RS, Faggian A (2014) College student migration in New England: who comes, who goes, and why we might care. Northeast Geogr 6:45–60Google Scholar
  18. Franklin R, Plane D (2004) A shift-share method for the analysis of regional fertility change: an application to the decline in childbearing in Italy, 1952-1991. Geogr Anal 36:1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Glaeser EL (1998) Are cities dying? J Econ Perspect 12(2):139–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Glaeser EL, Saiz A (2004) The rise of the skilled city. Brookings-Wharton papers on urban affairs 2004:47–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Glaeser EL, Scheinkman J, Shleifer A (1995) Economic growth in a cross-section of cities. J Monet Econ 36:117–143. Scholar
  22. Ishikawa Y (1992) The 1970s migration turnaround in Japan revisited: a shift share approach. Pap Reg Sci 71:153–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lucas RE (1988) On the mechanics of economic development. J Monet Econ 22:3–42. Scholar
  24. Manson S, Schroeder J, Van Riper D, Ruggles S (2017) IPUMS national historical geographic information system: version 12.0 [Database]. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
  25. McHenry P (2014) The Geographic distribution of human capital: measurement of contributing mechanisms. J Reg Sci 54:215–248. Scholar
  26. Moretti E (2004) Estimating the social return to higher education: evidence from longitudinal and repeated cross-sectional data. J Econ 121:175–212. Scholar
  27. Moretti E (2012) The new geography of jobs. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Plane D (1987) The geographic components of change in a migration system. Geogr Anal 19:283–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Plane D, Heins F (2003) Age articulation of US inter-metropolitan migration flows. Ann Reg Sci 37:107–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Plane DA, Rogerson PA (1991a) Tracking the baby boom, the baby bust, and the echo generations: how age composition regulates US migration. Prof Geogr 43:416–430. Scholar
  31. Plane DA, Rogerson PA (1991b) The ten commandments of migration research. In: Boyce DE, Nijkamp P, Shefer D (eds) Regional science: retrospect and prospect. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin/Heidelberg, pp 15–41. Scholar
  32. Plane DA, Henrie CJ, Perry MJ (2005) Migration up and down the urban hierarchy and across the life course. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 102:15313–15318. Scholar
  33. Romer PM (1986) Increasing returns and long-run growth. J Polit Econ 94:1002–1037. Scholar
  34. Ruth M, Franklin RS (2014) Livability for all? Conceptual limits and practical implications. Appl Geogr 49:18–23. Scholar
  35. Storper M, Scott AJ (2009) Rethinking human capital, creativity and urban growth. J Econ Geogr 9:147–167. Scholar
  36. U.S. Census Bureau (2006) Census 2000 PHC-T-41. A half-century of learning: historical statistics on educational attainment in the United States, 1940 to 2000Google Scholar
  37. Walker KE (2017) The shifting destinations of Metropolitan migrants in the U.S., 2005–2011. Growth Chang 48:532–551. Scholar
  38. Whisler RL, Waldorf BS, Mulligan GF, Plane DA (2008) Quality of life and the migration of the college-educated: a life-course approach. Growth Chang 39:58–94. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS)Newcastle UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK

Personalised recommendations