DO YOU PREFER WALKING OR DRIVING? Your answer may suggest something about your education level, according to a new study.
A report published last month says metropolitan areas in the United States that were found to be more pedestrian-friendly also often had higher levels of GDP — and their citizens were better educated.
The study was conducted by Smart Growth America, an urban advocacy group based in the District of Columbia. It looked at the 30 biggest metro zones in the US, and ranked them by how much office, retail, and residential area was conducive to walking.
这项研究由哥伦比亚特区一家美国城市倡导组织——美国精明增长联盟（Smart Growth America）负责实施。它针对 30 个美国大都市区，按办公区、零售区和住宅区中适合步行区域的多少进行排序。
“The end of sprawl is in sight,” the study’s press release reads. “For perhaps the first time 60 years, walkable urban places in all 30 of the largest metros are gaining market share over their drivable suburban competition.” What’s more? There is a “significant positive correlation” between the walkability of a place and the higher education of its workforce.
发布这项研究的新闻稿指出，“城市无计划扩张的后果显而易见，在 60 年间，全美 30 个大都市区中，适合步行地区的市场份额也许第一次超出了适于驱车出行的郊区。”还有什么呢？一个地方的步行方便程度与该地区的劳动力受教育水平有着“显著的正相关关系”。
The question is, why? Do brainier people just like to walk and not drive? It’s a complicated answer.
The more walkable a place, the smarter its population
Christopher Leinberger, professor at the George Washington University School of Business and one of the study’s authors, says that walkable urban places "have a much higher propensity to have highly educated people — about one third higher than drivable metro areas, like Orlando, Tampa, and Phoenix."
But he says what we don’t know is whether walkable places attract educated people, or whether educated people move to certain places that then become more walkable.
This chicken-and-egg quandary aside, what we do know that is highly educated people tend to veer toward pedestrian-friendly places.
For example, the top three cities in the study with the highest percentages of office, retail, and residential spots in walkable areas — New York, Washington, and Boston — had a lot of citizens age 25 and up who hold a least a bachelor’s degree. Washington had the most of those citizens in the entire study (51%), and Boston had third most (42%).
例如，研究中，在方便步行的地区中，办公区、零售区和住宅区最为集中的三大城市——纽约、华盛顿和波士顿，有大量 25 岁及 25 岁以上市民至少拥有学士学位。整个研究中，上述高学历市民华盛顿占比最多（51%），波士顿则居于第三（42%）。
That’s not all: Education levels aren’t just higher in walkable cities. GDP is, too. The gap between the highest and lowest urban metros by GDP in the study is a chasm of 49%, which Leinberger calls a “first and second world gap. This is serious stuff.”
Of course, correlation doesn’t equal causation. There’s not enough data to definitively say why these urban areas, which easily allow car-free errands and whose grocery stores are just a strollable jaunt away for many citizens, are filled with educated people.
But it’s definitely a starting point for conversation: Many socioeconomic and generational trends the world over could help explain why university graduates gravitate toward crowded, subway-lined metropolises these days. In fact, such an intellectual influx has started to change the entire faces of some urban areas.
Cities are ditching cars to cater to the educated
Big cities that topped the study’s list in GDP and education level have long been absent of the hallmarks of car-centric suburbia, like freeways and strip malls.
But Leinberger points to two exceptions that have high GDP, but low walkability scores. They’re both in the state of Texas: Houston and Dallas. The pair, which are America’s fourth and ninth biggest cities by population, respectively, both have aims to lure those car-eschewing, money-making, multiple degree-holders to their cities.
Back in the 1980s oil boom, Dallas’s car-dependent infrastructure (think car parks and strip malls) grew at a rate that was 2.5 times faster than the growth of walkable infrastructure (say, light rail or walking paths downtown).
回到石油热潮高涨的 1980 年代，在达拉斯，依赖汽车的基础设施（想想当时的汽车公园和公路沿线的商业区）的发展速度超出适合步行的基础设施（如轻轨和市中心的步道）的2.5 倍。
Today, however? Those numbers are reversed, says Leinberger: Walkable urban areas in Dallas are the ones seeing 2.5 times faster growth. It’s the same kind of investments places like New York, Boston, and San Francisco have made for years — and they’re three of the cities that placed in the top 5 of the walkability study by GDP and education level.
但今天的情况又是怎样的呢？莱因贝格尔表示，上述数字已被反转：达拉斯适合步行的市区的发展速度要高出 2.5 倍。像纽约、波士顿和旧金山这样的地方，多年来，投资趋势的变化也是如此，在针对适合步行城市的本研究中，这三个城市的国内生产总值和国民教育水平位居前五位。
Meanwhile, Americans and non-Americans alike are moving to Texas in droves: Its economic growth was 5.2% annually in 2014, and if Texas were its own country, it would have the twelfth highest GDP in the world, between Canada and Australia.
与此同时，美国人和非美国人都喜欢成群结队地搬到德克萨斯州：德克萨斯州 2014 年的经济增长为 5.2%，如果德克萨斯州本身是个独立的国家，则其国内生产总值将位居全球第 12 位，处于在加拿大和澳大利亚之间。
The mass arrival of educated talent is bringing in money for the economy — and a demand for car-alternative technology, too. The state is currently trying to build a bullet train based on Japan’s famous shinkansen. Which cities is it set to connect? The state’s two GDP hubs, of course: Dallas and Houston.
Increased urbanisation isn’t the only reason car-eschewing cities see smarter citizens. Young people play a role, too.
‘Millennial magnets’ draw smart young people
Millennials — those born between around 1981 and 1996 — are the most educated generation in history. Nearly half of them hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. They’re also all moving to cities, unlike their parents. These spikes in the workforce translate into metros with higher GDP and higher overall education levels.
千禧世代（出生于 1981-1996 年的一代）是历史上受教育程度最高的一代。他们中近一半都拥有学士学位或更高的学历。与父辈不同，他们都在向大城市迁移。这个趋势突出反映在劳动力人口的变化中，它带来大城市国内生产总值和国民整体教育水平的提高。
“This is being driven more than anything else by millennials,” Leinberger says.
Nowadays, twenty- and thirtysomethings are delaying marriage, children, and home-ownership, even as they’re becoming established in their careers. So a big house in the suburbs with front and back lawns — and a driveway with two cars — just aren’t as important. So they’re taking their university degrees and headed to the cities, and all the subways and walkable areas that come with them.
What happens when millennials finally do start a family? “One of the things we are seeing evidence of is that those millennials that are finally settling down are the ones moving to urbanising suburbs,” Leinberger says. “They want the better schools in a walkable urban place.”
He points to Arlington, Virginia, as an example. Just five miles outside Washington, DC, it’s a suburb that sports sidewalks on 90% of its streets, miles of bike paths, and easy access to Metrorail, Washington’s rapid-transit system. (Reminder: Washington placed first in the study for education level, and second for overall walkability.)
Between cities like Dallas and Houston (whose robust economies are attracting top talent and who are trying to reimagine themselves as pedestrian hotspots) and suburbs like Arlington, well-educated, young professionals seem to make any urban centre in the US more walkable.
Again, there isn’t enough data to pinpoint an exact reason that explains the correlation between walkability and high education levels. But there are other truths we can look at. Large cities are adding walkable infrastructure to lure educated money-makers. Young adults with multiple degrees are living in cities that provide public transit and walkable spaces — and those same young adults are changing places that don’t.
Do people who walk more tend to be brighter, harder working, better educated? It's tough to say. One thing is for sure, though: If cities want to be filled with smart people ready to boost the GDP, there better be enough sidewalks to go ‘round.