No college degree in an economic downturn? Ouch. That smarts. While US regions with the lowest educational levels struggle to keep afloat, some power metropolitan areas continue to draw the best-educated—and the most success, according to the latest census figures, pulling away even father from their weaker sisters. Boston, New York, and California's Bay Area and Silicon Valley boast the largest percentage of college grads, the biggest jump in college grads—and some of the top salaries. "In a knowledge economy, success breeds success," Brookings Institute fellow Alan Berube tells the Wall Street Journal.
Median incomes fell almost everywhere in the last decade. But the drop was softer in metro areas with higher educational levels and higher incomes to begin with. Median income in the top 10 highest-earning cities fell an average of 6.5% to some $70,000—while the median for the bottom 10 metro areas fell 10.8% to about $41,000. The overall figures reveal a fundamental shift in American society as the population continues to flee from rural to urban areas, and wealth moves from manufacturing centers to areas of educated, highly skilled labor. (Read more census stories.)