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Ann Arbor vs. Iowa City – How do we compare?

November 11, 2016 Regional Updates
University of Iowa and UofM comparison

Recap: This fall there are 8 home football games out of the 12 game regular season. We used this rather unprecedented home game advantage as an impetus to ask ourselves how we stack up against other, similar regions. How does Ann Arbor compare to other college towns in the US? 

Though not as small as some of the other Big Ten cities, on the surface, Iowa City doesn’t seem to have much in common with Ann Arbor at all. Iowa City has a population of about 72,000, and the University of Iowa a total enrollment of about 30,000 students. Proportionately speaking, it’s similar to the ratio of the population of Ann Arbor to the enrollment at U of M, though smaller on both measurements. About a 2 hr drive from Des Moines, and a 3 ½ hr drive to Chicago, Iowa City isn’t as close as Ann Arbor to Detroit, so doesn’t have a similar bond to a large metropolitan area. However, the industry clusters present in Ann Arbor and Iowa City are comparable; we compete for talent and strive for excellence in similar areas like Advanced Manufacturing, Information Technology, Autonomous Vehicles, and Education.

This “proportionate similarity” makes more sense when put in the context of the American Institute for Economic Research’s Employment Destinations Index tool (represented in our infographic below), which ranks the best employment destinations for college graduates. Ann Arbor is ranked #1 for Small Metros, and Iowa City is ranked #1 for Smallest Metros.

Perhaps the most striking similarity is that both the University of Iowa and the University of Michigan have world-renowned MFA programs in writing. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop is perhaps the most famous, as it was the first creative writing degree program in the United States, and since its founding in 1936, the program has been home to thousands of remarkable writers. The program claims among its graduates winners of virtually every major literary award, including seventeen winners of the Pulitzer Prize (most recently Paul Harding in 2010), six recent U.S. Poets Laureate, and numerous winners of the National Book Award, MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, and other major honors.

The University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program is similarly prestigious.  Alumni have gone on to accomplish remarkable things, garnering—in recent years—the National Book Award, The Yale Younger Poets Award, the Whiting Award, the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, and many other honors. Their work has appeared in acclaimed venues such as The New Yorker, and been anthologized in collections such as The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Poetry. Their books have also been published by some of the most celebrated imprints and presses in the country, including Scribner, Riverhead, Viking, and the University of Chicago Press.

MFA writing programs are rarely ranked (many believe the ranking process is inherently antithesis to the arts in general, like this post). However, it is interesting that in a 2012 ranking of MFA programs, Iowa and Michigan were ranked #1 and #2, respectively. Just food for thought.

Through the roar of the crowds this weekend, and the anxiety and rush of defending a stellar record, perhaps your thoughts will turn to poetry or short stories to express the turbid emotions of end-of-season football… or you could just have another beer.

ICYMI – Here are links to the series on our athletic (and economic) competition!

Ann Arbor vs. College Park

Ann Arbor vs. East Lansing

Ann Arbor vs. Urbana/Champaign

Ann Arbor vs. New Brunswick

Ann Arbor vs. Madison

Ann Arbor vs. State College

Ann Arbor vs. Boulder 

Michigan vs. Florida

Michigan vs. Hawaii