Education Cited as Limit to City Economy

“There’s a lot to like about the current state of the Philadelphia region’s economy, particularly in the city,” economist Mark Zandi said Tuesday afternoon during a panel discussion at the Union League of Philadelphia.

“For the first time in a long time, it feels there’s real underlying strength here,” said Zandi, who is chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

“Other members of the panel – sponsored by a nonprofit, Students Helping Students, which redistributes supplies and furnishings from wealthy schools to poor schools – were Jeremy Nowak, a consultant and former head of the William Penn Foundation, and Matt Cabrey, executive director of Select Greater Philadelphia, a group that markets the region to companies looking to relocate.”

“At the top of Nowak’s list of Philadelphia downsides is the relatively low educational level of residents. He said that only 24 percent or 25 percent of Philadelphia residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with Atlanta, where about 47 percent of the residents have at least a bachelor’s, or Seattle, where 70 percent have such a degree.”

The relatively low educational level of the population, coupled with the city’s high poverty level, form “a built-in limit to job growth,” Nowak said.

Two keys to the future, for Nowak, are attracting more early-stage capital and fixing the city’s tax system, which relies too heavily on wages and profits, as opposed to real estate.

– Harold Brubaker, Inquirer Staff Writer