Greater MSP gives the Twin Cities its annual report card

New Regional Indicators Dashboard shows how the Twin Cities stack up against similar U.S. metro areas

By Brian Martucci
Thursday, May 26, 2016

Earlier this month, Greater MSP released its second annual Regional Indicators Dashboard, a comprehensive look at how the Twin Cities metro stacks up against comparable U.S. regions.

Greater MSP’s analysis covered eight broad statistical categories: economy, education, infrastructure, business vitality, environment, livability, talent and “vital statistics” (things like gross metro product and effective tax rate).

Our Peers

Greater MSP compared our stats to comparable metrics from 11 peer metro areas, all of which demonstrated “[similar] demographic and economic characteristics, location, evidence of competition with MSP for business or talent and positive economic trajectory.” The list:

  • Atlanta
  • Austin
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Denver
  • Phoenix
  • Pittsburgh
  • Portland
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle

So — how do we stack up?

The Good

Here’s where we come out ahead of most — and, in some cases, all! — of our peers:

  • Professional Talent: Our talent pool is strong, and getting stronger. Exactly one in two MSP residents aged 25 and older has an associate’s degree, good for 3rd among peer areas; 40% of residents aged 25 and older have bachelor’s degrees, good for 5th. Both trendlines are improving.
  • Assimilating New Americans: Anti-immigrant sentiment appears to be on the rise in America, at least in certain circles, but new Americans are clearly prospering here in MSP. Three in four foreign-born Minnesotans aged 16 to 64 are employed — better than any peer region. 
  • Transportation & Infrastructure: You wouldn’t know it from the Minnesota Legislature’s raucous transportation funding debate, which once again highlighted deep divisions between Greater Minnesota Republicans and metro area Democrats; nor from 2007’s tragic I-35W bridge collapse, which focused the nation’s attention on a looming infrastructure crisis. But our road infrastructure actually isn’t terrible! Just 8.9% of our bridges are “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete,” better than any peer metro. Just 35% of our roads are congested at peak travel times, better than all but one peer. And 62.8% of metro workers commute 30 minutes or less, better than all peers.
  • Environment & Sustainability: Our eco-performance is pretty darn good. We use less water than all but three peers, have cleaner drinking water than all but one, have fewer “unhealthy for sensitive groups” air quality days than all but two and get more of our electricity (46.2%) from non-carbon sources than any other peer. The one notable blemish is our total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions per capita — at 7th, we’re in the bottom half of peer groups, though Greater MSP used all-Minnesota data on this point.

The Not-So-Good

It’s not all hunky-dory in the Twin Cities. Here’s where we fall short:

  • Academic Achievement: The academic achievement gap is real — and problematic, and shameful. White elementary- and middle-school students meet reading readiness standards at nearly twice the rate of students of color. And on-time high school graduation rates for students of color lag white students’ by nearly 20%.
  • Shared Prosperity: The Twin Cities have a very real shared prosperity gap, too. The poverty rate for whites is 6.3%, good for first place among peers. For people of color, it’s nearly 24% — placing us 10th. Good, or at least better, news: Our employment density, measured by the number of people who live within a 30-minute walk or transit journey of at least 100,000 jobs, is higher than all but four of our peers.
  • Job Creation & Productivity: Despite the lowest unemployment rate in our peer group, our job creation rates lag badly: We’re 10th on total job growth, notching a measly 1.8% gain last year.
  • Innovation & Business Formation: These metrics tell the same “meh” story. We’re 10th on venture capital investment (just $372 million in all of Minnesota last year), 6th on patents issued per 1,000 workers, and 7th on total value of loans to businesses under $1M revenue.
  • Millennial Migration: We’re not losing young people, but we’re not gaining them as fast as we should be. We only gained about 1,700 people aged 25 to 34 last year — 8th among peer metros, and a slower pace than prior years. And MSP’s total population only grew by 1% last year, the fourth-slowest rate among peers.