This is not a central part of my research by any means. However, in the process of thinking about what leads to regional and urban economic development I have had to grapple with the idea that education or ‘talent’ (often operationalised as university degree holders or some similar metric) is key to economic development.
Unfortunately the evidence does not quite stack up: whilst there is no doubt that formally educated individuals tend to earn more than less educated ones, it is unclear whether this reflects their social and cultural capital (i.e. their networks, family ties and background), intrinsic ability or the knowledge and skills they gain through education.
At the scale of cities and regions there is not much evidence that those with more degree holders grow faster (though on average these regions benefit from higher incomes). This may be due to the fact that there is now a saturation of degree holders (whereas in the 1960s and 1970s there were not enough of them) and/or that qualifications now function as credentials (i.e. as basic entry requirements for almost all jobs) rather than as signifiers of skill or knowledge.
Finally, whilst obviously causality can run in both directions, on balance it would seem that well informed, savvy and sought-after graduates migrate towards cities and regions that offer them economic opportunities: it is not attracting graduates that makes cities and regions grow faster.
Here are a few chapters and papers on these topics.
Shearmur, R., 2014, Diplômes et croissance économique: quelques chainons manquants, in Vultur, M. (ed) La surqualification au Québec et au Canada, Québec : Presses de l’Université Laval, pp245-272
Shearmur, R., 2013, Que reste-t-il de la classe créative?, Nouveau projet, 2013.3
Chenard, P. and R.Shearmur, 2012, Immigration, Attraction or Retention? Some Determinants of Local Human Capital change in Canada, Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 21.1, 79-108
Delisle, F.and R.Shearmur, 2010, Where Does all the Talent Flow? The Migration of 20-34 year old Graduates, Canada, 1996-2001, The Canadian Geographer, 54.3, 305-323
Shearmur, R., 2010, L’Aristocratie Mobile du Savoir et Son Tapis Rouge : Quelques Réflexions sur les thèses de Richard Florida, in Tremblay, R. et D-G. Tremblay (eds) La classe créative selon Richard Florida : un paradigme urbain plausible? Québec et Rennes : Presses de l’Université du Québec et Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 107-125
Shearmur, R., 2009, Who’s your City?, by R.Florida (2008), Toronto: Random House, 416p, Canadian Geographer, 53.3, 379-381
Shearmur, R., 2007, ‘The New Knowledge Aristocracy: A Few Thoughts on the Creative Class, Mobility and Urban Growth’, Work Labour, Organisation and Globalisation, 1.1, 31-47
Polèse, M. and R.Shearmur, 2005, La production, l’attraction et la rétention des diplômés universitaires.Étude comparative de la région métropolitaine de Montréal et d’autres métropoles canadiennes et américaines, Montréal: INRS-UCS, soumis à la Chambre de Commerce, 40p
Shearmur.R, 2000, ‘Is More Education Really a Good Thing?‘, Options Politiques, 21.3, 50-54
Shearmur.R., 1998, ‘A Geographical Perspective on Education and Jobs; Employment Growth and Education in the Canadian Urban System 1981-1994’, Revue Canadienne des Sciences Régionales, 21, 15-48