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.

just what the doctor ordered

Houston recognized among the best hospital cities in the nation

Houston, home to the largest medical center in the world, was ranked among the best cities for health care in the country. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

As home to Texas Medical Center — the world's largest medical complex — it stands to reason that Houston ranks among the country's best cities for health care. A new study bolsters that notion, but it also points out that several health care measures in Houston need some TLC.

The study, conducted by digital health care provider Medbelle, ranks Houston as the ninth best "hospital city" in the United States. Medbelle sifted through data in three categories (health care infrastructure, quality of health care and access to health care) to develop the ranking. Within those categories, Medbelle examined factors like quality of medical education, number of hospital beds, shortage of nurses, efficiency of cancer treatment, and prevalence of mental health specialists.

"Houston is known internationally as the home of one of the best medical communities in the world," the City of Houston declares.

In the Medbelle study, Boston landed at No. 1 in the U.S.; Tokyo took the global crown. At No. 13, Dallas was the only other Texas city to earn a place on the U.S. list.

Medbelle says it compiled the ranking to highlight regional hospital "ecosystems" rather than specific hospitals. The Houston area has more than 85 hospitals.

Houston's hospital ecosystem scored 94.92 out of 100, yet sits in next-to-last place for access to health care (48.83 out of 100), Medbelle notes. Daniel Kolb, co-founder and managing director of Medbelle, says this means that while Houston enjoys one of the best medical infrastructures in the world, a relatively small percentage of people in the region can take advantage of it.

In 2018, nearly 1 in 5 residents of the Houston area (18.6 percent) lacked health insurance, the U.S. Census Bureau says. That's the highest rate of uninsured residents among the country's 25 most populous metro areas. Affordability and availability continue to exacerbate the health insurance predicament in Houston and around the country.

"The single biggest issue in health care for most Americans is that their health costs are growing much faster than their wages are," Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, says in a release. "Costs are prohibitive when workers making $25,000 a year have to shell out $7,000 a year just for their share of family premiums."

For those who can afford medical care, the Houston area boasts some of the best hospitals in the U.S. MD Anderson Cancer Center reigns as the country's top cancer hospital, for instance.

In May, The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit representing large employers in the U.S., assigned its highest grade — "A" — to these nine hospitals in the Houston area:

  • HCA Houston Healthcare (Kingwood)
  • Houston Methodist Hospital
  • Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital
  • Houston Methodist West Hospital
  • Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital
  • Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center
  • Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital
  • Tomball Regional Medical Center
  • West Houston Medical Center

From another perspective, U.S. News & World Report ranks Houston Methodist Hospital as the best hospital in the Houston area, followed by Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center, Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, and Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.

Meanwhile, Houston-area physicians hold Texas Children's Hospital West Campus in the highest regard among the region's hospitals, trailed by Houston Methodist West Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Children's Hospital, and Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital.