Bloomington shines as Midwest college town

September 15, 2008
Few Midwestern university cities have prospered as much as Bloomington in the past couple of decades, a recent Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago study shows.

When it comes to growth in per-capital personal income, Bloomington has been surpassed only by Minneapolis, home to the University of Minnesota, and Ames, Iowa, where Iowa State University is located.

And Bloomington, the base for Indiana University's flagship campus, placed sixth in population growth.

The study spun out of an attempt to determine the benefit of higher education. Economic development experts have long linked education to income, with recent research showing college graduates earning 60 percent more than those with high school diplomas.

University towns were identified by finding the top 10 metro areas with the highest per-capita research-and-development expenditures in 1979. Those metro areas then were ranked by growth in population and income over the following 27 years.

The study cautioned that many other factors make it difficult to assess the impact of higher education. One variable is varying levels of manufacturing. For example, the study noted, the manufacturing center of Lafayette, home of Purdue University, didn't make the list.

University towns included in the study were in states included at least partially in the Chicago Fed district: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

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