In a knowledge economy, we are often told the smartest cities and nations do the best. But economists typically measure smart cities by education level, calculating the cities or metros with the largest percentage of college grads or the largest shares of adults with advanced degrees. Others (like me) do it by charting the kinds of work people do and the occupations they hold, differentiating between knowledge or creative workers and others who do more routine manufacturing and service jobs.
But a new measure seeks to track the "brain performance" or cognitive capacity of metros in a different and potentially more direct way.
This metric, developed by Lumos Labs, is based on their cognitive training and tracking software, Lumosity. It covers some 20 million members (and 320 million individual game plays) who use the company's online games to assess and attempt to improve their cognitive performance. This, writes the Wall Street Journal:
To measure the smartest cities, Lumosity scientists tracked the cognitive performance of more than one million users in the United States on their games, mapping them across U.S. metros using IP geolocation software. Individual scores were recorded in five key cognitive areas: memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving.The data was normalized into a basic brain performance index controlling for age and gender. Only metros with more than 500 observations were included. The data cover 169 metros.might not sound much different than other games you might play at the office. (Minesweeper, anyone?) The difference is tracking. The games offer a scorecard of your performance and let you follow changes in performance over time, so you can see if you're getting better or backsliding. You can also choose what skills you want to improve. If you're having trouble remembering things, for instance, you might ask for memory-boosting games. So, while it may seem like just another game, it can home in on skills you're trying to sharpen for work—and improve them.
The map below from Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute maps the this brainy metro index across U.S. metros.
(Click the map for a larger image)HT: Big Think
With the help of my colleague Charlotta Mellander, I correlated the Lumosity data on brain performance with conventional measures of educational attainment, knowledge workers and other factors. The Lumosity data were significantly associated with both the share of adults with a bachelor's degree or greater (.56) and the percent engaged in knowledge and creative work (.45). Higher cognitive performance scores not surprisingly were also associated with higher rates of innovation, greater concentrations of high-tech industry and higher per capita incomes.
Here are America's 25 brainiest metros, according to Lumosity's metrics:
There's a lot of college towns on the list....MORE
- Charlottesville, Virginia
- Lafayette, Indiana
- Anchorage Alaska
- Madison, Wisconsin
- San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose
- Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City & Dubuque, Iowa
- Johnstown-Altoona, Pennsylvania
- Champaign & Springfield-Decatur, Illinois
- Minneapolis-St. Paul
- Boston-Manchester (Massachusetts/New Hampshire)
- Rochester, New York
- Gainesville, Florida
- Fargo-Valley City North Dakota
- Lansing, Michigan
- Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Luis Obispo
- Burlington-Plattsburgh (Vermont/New York)
- Syracuse, New York
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Columbia-Jefferson City, Missouri
- La Crosse-Eau Claire, Wisconsin
- Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York Pennsylvania
- Springfield-Holyoke, Massachusetts
It would be brainier if the writer had said "There are" a lot of college towns...
Plural, singular, whatev