There is no standard definition of a “geek,” however, the U.S. National Science Foundation has created a compelling taxonomy for its annual “Science and Engineering Indicators” report.
The most recent version defines “geeks” as any worker with a bachelor’s level of knowledge and education in science or engineering-related fields or workers in occupations that require some degree of technical knowledge or training.
In “Science and Engineering Indicators 2010,” the NSF ranked the top 20 cities in the United States by the percentage of workers with jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Based on the NSF’s criteria, the densest concentration of geeks in the U.S. cities is not necessarily where you would expect, with one big exception.
The capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose, Calif., is the geek capital of America, with 18.2% of the workforce employed in tech or science jobs. In second place: the counter-culture center of Boulder, Colo. It’s not only a favorite of hippies, nature and sports lovers–Boulder has also become a hotbed for tech startups. Some 17.4% of the workforce is engaged in tech or science jobs.
In third place is Framingham, Mass., where 16.6% of workers are science and math geeks. The city hosts the corporate headquarters of the consumer electronics maker Bose and the office supply chain Staples, and a sizable Genzyme research center.
Is there anything geekier than rocket science? In fourth place is Huntsville, Ala., home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, which has been at the forefront of the nation’s space exploration mission for five decades. Some 16.2% of the workforce is employed in science and math jobs.
In the United States, foreign-born geeks have become an engine of economic growth, especially geeks who emigrated from China and India. Today, more than a third of U.S.-resident doctorate holders came from China or India. Twenty-five percent of all college-educated workers in S&E occupations in 2003 were foreign born, as were 40% of doctorate holders in S&E occupations. But foreign-born geeks aren’t the only geeks bolstering innovation in America. On the contrary, the U.S. geek squad has steadily expanded for more than half a century. The number of geeks working in the U.S. grew at an average annual growth rate of 6.2% from about 182,000 in 1950 to 5.5 million in 2007.
In addition to the arrival of armies of foreign-born scientists and engineers, the U.S. educational juggernaut has sustained geek growth by minting more a science and engineering degrees than ever. Furthermore, the rate of retirement for most techno-laborers is lower than it is in the general workforce, primarily because geeks are generally younger compared to other U.S. workers.
More than 40% of all university-educated foreign-born workers had their highest degree from a foreign institution, up from about half that percentage before the 1980s.
#1 San Jose, Calif.
18.2% of workforce
165,400 workers employed
It’s no surprise that San Jose would top the list, standing at the epicenter of Silicon Valley.
#2 Boulder, Colo.
17.4% of workforce
28,010 workers employed
Boulder is best known for baking its brains. The city boasts among the nation’s most indulgent annual celebrations of international weed smoking day on April 20. Fortunately, Boulder has a more than ample supply of brains to bake, with a large state university campus, numerous scientific institutes and a strong tech sector.
#3 Framingham, Mass
16.6% of workforce
25,940 workers employed
In West Framingham, Route 9 runs down the dividing line between the Framingham Industrial Park on the north side of Route 9 and the Framingham Technology Park on the south side.These parks boast the corporate headquarters of Bose and Staples, as well as a Genzyme research center and Capital One offices. In the picture above, Amar G. Bose, Chairman of the Board and Technical Director of Bose Corporation, foreground, watches a demonstration of a Bose suspension system for automobiles in the parking lot of his company.
#4 Huntsville, Ala
16.2% of workforce
32,630 workers employed
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville has been at the forefront of the nation’s space exploration mission for five decades.
#5 Durham, N.C.
15.5% of workforce
41,560 workers employed
The Raleigh-Durham-Cary area, otherwise known as the Research Triangle, hosts Duke University and the third-highest percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree.
#6 Lowell, Mass.
14.1% of workforce
16,580 workers employed
Named after Francis Cabot Lowell, the City of Lowell is often cited as “America’s first industrial city.” While most of its mills are gone, the Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford area has attracted a number of technology companies, including Kronos Inc., Jabil Circuit and Juniper Networks.
#7 Washington, D.C.
12.7% of workforce
290,700 workers employed
Uncle Sam needs a lot of brain power and the private sector government-contracting conglomerates like Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen Hamilton are conveniently located to provide the intellectual fire power.
#8 Ithaca, N.Y.
12.5% of workforce
6,270 workers employed
You can say many things about the people living in Ithaca, home to Cornell University, but “dumb” is not one of them.
#9 Bethesda, Md.
12% of workforce
68,340 workers employed
The Bethesda-Gaithersburg-Frederick area hosts numerous government contractors, federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health and military medical facilities.
167,060 workers employed
There are three reasons why Seattle is on this list: Microsoft, Microsoft and Microsoft.
#11 Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, Wash.
11.2% of workforce
9,700 workers employed
#12 Austin-Round Rock, Texas
11% of workforce
82,100 workers employed