brain power

This Houston ZIP code declared the smartest in Texas

Most of Houston's smartest ZIP codes surround the Texas Medical Center. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Houston area is bursting with brain power. Three ZIP codes in the region are home to the biggest share of Texans who've earned a master's, professional, or doctoral degree, according to a new list from UnitedStatesZipCodes.org. And that, according to one economic development executive, is a boon to Houston's workforce.

Houston's 77030 ZIP code, which houses the Texas Medical Center, sits atop the new ranking. There, more than half (51.7 percent) of adults 25 and over, or about 3,800 people, hold a postgraduate or professional degree. As a whole, 12 percent of adults in the Houston metro area have a postgraduate or professional degree, according to the Greater Houston Partnership.

The postgraduate category includes PhDs and MBAs, while the professional category includes JDs (law degrees) and MDs (medical degrees).

"When deciding where to live, neighborhoods full of residents with postgraduate degrees are … increasingly attractive," reads UnitedStatesZipCodes.org, which based its ranking on U.S. Census Bureau data. "Well-educated communities — full of leaders in technology, medicine, business, and more — can bring new industries and revenue."

Ranking second on the list of brainiest Texas ZIP codes is Houston's 77005, where 48.5 percent of adults (or about 8,600 people) hold a postgraduate or professional degree. This ZIP code, which neighbors the 77030 ZIP code, includes the Rice campus. Also, it's presumably home to a lot of highly educated Rice professors and Texas Medical Center doctors.

Directly to the west of the 77030 ZIP is Bellaire — 77401 — which appears at No. 3 in the ranking. In the 77401 ZIP code, 47.6 percent of adults (or nearly 6,300 people) have earned a postgraduate or professional degree; it, too, is likely packed with Rice University professors and Texas Medical Center doctors.

Susan Davenport, senior vice president of economic development at the Greater Houston Partnership, says the region's two top-tier schools — Rice and the University of Houston — along with the region's more than 40 other four-year and two-year schools contribute to Houston's collective brain trust. So do two nearby schools: the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University in College Station.

"More broadly, we are an attractive market for educated professionals from across the country, especially compared to leading East or West Coast cities, because of our lower cost of living, affordable housing prices, and strong economy," Davenport says.

"This creates a virtuous cycle: Companies move to or expand in Houston because they want access to this talent," she adds, "and leading talent moves here because they want to work for these companies and institution."

Davenport says initiatives like the Innovation Corridor, the TMC3 research campus and The Ion entrepreneurship hub also help nurture a well-educated workforce.

"We anticipate these projects will attract even more of the world's brightest minds to our region," she says.

Three other Houston ZIP codes made the top 10 in Texas:

  • No. 5 — 77098 (39.2 percent). That percentage represents about 4,300 people. This ZIP code is just northwest of the Rice and Texas Medical Center campuses.
  • No. 6 — 77025 (39.15 percent). That percentage represents almost 8,200 people. This ZIP code is just southwest of the Rice and Texas Medical Center campuses.
  • No. 10 — 77024 (35.4 percent). That percentage represents about 9,400 people. This ZIP code is slightly east of the Energy Corridor.

"It is no surprise that top-flight, innovation-focused talent would flock to neighborhoods near downtown, Uptown and the world-renowned Texas Medical Center," Davenport says.

Other Texas ZIP codes in the top 10 for postgraduate or professional degrees are:

  • No. 4 — 78703, Austin (41.5 percent). This ZIP code, less than two miles west of the University of Texas campus, includes high-end neighborhoods such as Tarrytown and Old West Austin.
  • No. 7 — 75205, Dallas (37.7 percent). The Southern Methodist University campus sits on the east side of this ZIP code.
  • No. 8 — 78746, Austin (37.2 percent). This ZIP code encompasses parts of West Austin, as well as the wealthy suburbs of Rollingwood and West Lake Hills.
  • No. 9 — 78731, Austin (37.1 percent). This ZIP code incorporates part of Central Austin and a large swath of Northwest Austin.

Federal data shows the unemployment rates for people with master's, professional, and doctoral degrees are lower than for other groups, such as people whose bachelor's or associate's degrees are their most advanced degrees. In addition, people with a postgraduate or professional degree typically earn more money.

"Graduates with the right knowledge and skills have the ability to demand higher salaries, as they are equipped to make significant contributions to the revenue and growth of the companies they work for," the Digital Marketing Institute says.

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Building Houston

 
 

Moonflower Farms grows lettuce hydroponically. Courtesy of Moonflower Farms

A Houston urban farm has earned national recognition for its innovative approach to water conservation. Moonflower Farms won the American Heart Association's Foodscape Innovation Excellence Award, which recognizes positive changes in the foodscape, a term for all of the places where food is produced, purchased, or consumed.

The Heart Association selected Moonflower's submission, titled "Sustainable Farming Through Water Conservation," from 26 entries. Dallas' Restorative Farms earns the Foodscape Innovation Consumer Choice Award.

"These two innovations demonstrate a way of producing food that promotes affordability and equitable access, and the American Heart Association is proud to recognize these efforts," AHA chief medical officer for prevention Eduardo Sanchez said in a release.

Located in a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse south of downtown, Moonflower operates what it describes as Houston's first vertical indoor farm. The method both reduces the amount of space needed to grow the farm's microgreens, lettuces, herbs and edible flowers and it eliminates the disruptions caused by adverse weather conditions, which allows the farm to produce year round.

Moonflower uses a closed-loop system for capturing rainwater to feed its crops. The water is treated and oxygenated so that it can be reused. Not having to pay for water from the City of Houston allows the farm to operate more economically and sell its produce at an affordable price to restaurants and individuals.

"Our hydroponic farm uses 90-percent less water than conventional farms," Moonflower founder and CEO Federico Marques said in a statement. "We provide year-round produce to residents in historically underserved communities and donate produce to local charitable food systems."

One of those charities is Houston non-profit Second Servings, which "rescues" food from restaurants and events and distributes it to food pantries and other resources.

"The donations we receive from Moonflower Farms are incredible," Second Servings founder and president Barbara Bronstein said. "Their hydroponically grown greens are so appreciated by the needy Houstonians we serve, who lack affordable, convenient access to fresh produce."

Recently, Moonflower introduced a SupaGreens subscription box that allows customers to purchase greens weekly, bimonthly, or monthly. The box is delivered directly to consumers.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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