Cities are more crowded, more polluted, and more stressful to live in than any other kind of man-made environment in the world. But they are also where the smartest people want to live. A new study of American mobility patterns suggests that people with higher intelligence are more likely to be moving in and out of cities. Among them, those individuals who originate from rural towns exhibit the highest forms of intelligence. will be published in the September/October issue of the journal Intelligence. The study, conducted by psychologist Markus Jokela from the University of Helsinki, traced the 16-year migratory patterns of 11,500 Americans between the ages of 15 and 23, starting in 1979. Jokela found that people who moved from rural and suburban areas to central cities typically had much higher intelligence scores than people who stayed put or made other kinds of movements. Those same people also tended to leave central cities for suburban environments, to a lesser degree. The findings themselves arenБt particularly revelatory Б it has long been thought that smart young people flock to the cities for better education and higher-paying jobs, and move out to the suburbs in order to raise a family.
But the most striking part about JokelaБs study is the numbers; most notably a 12-point intelligence gap between rural residents who stayed in their hometown and those who moved to central cities. When Jokela controlled for socioeconomic status, this gap was reduced to 4 point. While this is less stunning, it does indicate that intelligence plays a role in where Americans decide to live. БThe most general message is that the selective residential mobility we observe associated with socioeconomic status has its psychological underpinnings in intelligence differences,Б. While the results are interesting, they should be read with caution. JokelaБs analysis illustrates that intelligence and migration are connected, but not whether intelligence actually influenced individualsБ decision to move. The dataset for the study is also cut off after 1996, and American migratory patterns may have changed a great deal in the last two decades.
The biggest takeaway, however, is that smart people are constantly anxious to keep moving around. If you live in the city, you may want to talk to your new neighbor from that rural town youБve never heard of Б they probably have a few things to teach you, before they leave for greener pastures.
The stereotypical trappings of urban living (i. e. crowds, tall, shiny buildings) do not a city make. In order to figure out what does, design firm Sasaki the results of a 1,000-person, six-city survey that asked residents what they loved and hated about their surroundings. Some answers from those living in Boston, Chicago, New York, Austin, San Francisco, and Washington, D. C. , could have been anticipated, but other responses were more surprising. Take, for instance, people s affection for historic buildings. According to Sasaki s survey, 57% of city-dwellers stop to look at old buildings when walking down the street (more than the 15% who stare at skyscrapers), and more than half agreed that renovating old buildings so that they retain their architectural character should be a priority.
Only 17% said they felt their city was too quaint and wanted more shiny iconic buildings. The attachment to old buildings makes sense for a number of reasons. Before the faceless International Style swept in from across the Atlantic, architects used to take pleasure in elaborate details. (Just look at any Louis Sullivan joint. ) But old buildings are comforting in another way: By reminding us of the past, they help us understand the plot of our times. After all, historic buildings carry narrative, too something that contemporary buildings often eschew. When urbanites bemoan the Starbucks opening up on their block, it s usually not because they hate Starbucks, but because the Starbucks is replacing something else maybe a mom-and-pop shop, or that deli with the best egg and cheese around. An important note from the Sasaki survey: 46% of residents said they d leave their neighborhoods to try a new restaurant. What can this tell us?
Optimizing a city so that every chain and franchised amenity is within a couple blocks of your home doesn t necessarily make it a great place to be. Perhaps we do need to feel like we can go on an adventure in our own 10 square miles, and when we do, it shouldn t look like every other part of the city. No surprise here. People love parks. Nearly half of those surveyed said the waterfront was their favorite place to be, which contains a note of sadness, too. Will cities be able to adapt their waterfronts to rising sea levels? Or will we all eventually be forced to retreat? There are still a lot of creative suggestions to the first question before we resort to answering the second. Just because a city s dense doesn t mean it directs its traffic well. More than 40% of those surveyed highlighted traffic as their most frustrating issue, followed by lack of parking. Cities across the states are still working to develop functional bike share programs and more efficient public transit, but shifting away from a reliance on cars still has a long way to go.