Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hey, Is Your Town Stupid?

Crossposting:: More in-depth sociology version is here.

Notes from north of 49ºN.

I was catching up on Macleans reading and found articles on Canada's smartest cities. It brings up an interesting question of how learning capacity affects the local economic development. The Composite Learning Index, using ideas developed by UNESCO, gauges a city's ability to foster lifelong learning::
"Until now, Canada’s score had been on the upswing, from 76 in 2007 to 77 last year. Today that number has dropped to 75, precariously close to the lowest level recorded, which was 73, in 2006. The figures are based on the annual Composite Learning Index, which gives every Canadian community (some 4,719 in all) a score according to how it supports lifelong learning."
Here's a link to a selected list of cities. Calgary tops the list at 89. In Ontario, Guelph, Barrie, Ottawa, Kitchener, and Oshawa all beat out Toronto, tied for 13th at 80. One article compared Windsor (languishing in the index) to Québec City (one of the most-improved), with the latter on an economic upswing.
"Quebec City’s unemployment has fallen markedly, from 6.8 per cent in 2006 to 5.2 per cent in 2009. And while Windsor’s total learning score was going nowhere, its jobless rate shot up, from 10.2 per cent to 15.2 per cent over the same period."
The story is a bit more complicated, given that Québec City had had 50 years to reinvent itself after its economy collapsed, while Windsor is still watching its current industrial base crumble. While the learning index may be a proxy for resilience of its population to withstand exogenous shocks and the trials and tribulations of everyday life, one fact remains is that those at the top tend to be growing cities with wealthier citizenry. This pattern also follows the "most cultured" cities.

While the index is a tool that can be used diagnostically to help policymakers make decisions on spending, comparing cities with a weighted score seems a bit misguided. Plus, it's a bit more accessible than Bourdieu's work on cultural capital.

Image:: Toronto Now magazine racks, Shuter & Dalhousie. ~Moonwire

Song:: Town Called Malice - The Jam



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