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Choosing where to live for gifted children

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This article is meant for gifted and/or intellectually curious children or their parents deciding where to live in order to provide the child a good intellectual experience. In many cases, making a move is not possible or desirable for other reasons, such as jobs, other family, or community ties. Nonetheless, awareness of the considerations can help with making an informed decision.

There may also be some students at the high school level who are prepared to live separately from their parents, and can move to a different geographical location that's more suited to them. This situation is relatively rare.

The absolute number of highly talented people

A general rule of thumb is that places with a large absolute number of highly talented people (within reach of easy travel) are good places to live in. Note that it's not the average intelligence, wealth, or accomplishment level that matters. It's not even the proportion of highly talented people that matters, because places with very low population densities, such as wealthy distant suburbs or small towns, may not have enough highly talented people in absolute number even if everybody living there is talented. (Generally, though, since talent attracts talent, places with high proportions of talented people are the same as places with a high absolute number of talented people, so the distinction is not so relevant).

Some cities have more widely spread distributions of talent, with a larger proportion of people at both ends of the spectrum. The number of people at the low end is relatively less relevant, because most of one's interactions with these people are unlikely to be for the purpose of intellectual exchange (though they might still make for good friends and companions in other dimensions).

Reasons why the number is important

  • Talented adults generally have talented children, due to some combination of genetics and parental resources, guidance, and encouragement. Note that this is attenuated by regression to the mean (the children of highly talented people are talented, but on average less so than their parents; conversely, the parents of talented children are talented, but on average less so than their children).
  • A large absolute number of talented children, as well as a sufficiently large number of talented adults to teach them, make possible the existence of brick-and-mortar schools for gifted children or gifted and talented education programs within existing schools.
  • A larger concentration of talented children and parents may mean a larger number of (gifted) homeschoolers, making homeschooling easier.
  • It may be easier to find tutors and mentors specifically for the needs of one's child.

Look for concentrations of talent

The following are some general tips:

  • Look for places that have the best universities.
  • Look for places that have concentrations of industries that require high levels of the relevant talent. (For intellectually gifted children, this means places that have industries that hire people who are generally smart).
  • All else equal, look for metropolitan areas with larger populations, because these are likely to have a greater absolute number of highly talented people, because they have larger population, and also because jobs and living expenses in cities are higher, so they attract more talented people.
  • Use available statistics on income, wealth and educational attainment levels. These statistics are not reliable, because the correlation between income and talent is not perfect. But it is a decent start.

Some top areas to consider

In the United States:

  1. The Bay Area (Silicon Valley, San Francisco, the East Bay): There are two world-class universities (Stanford and Berkeley), many software companies and web companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), a Bay Area Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, schools for gifted children, and gifted and talented education programs in public schools. The Bay Area offers the added advantage of an entrepreneurial spirit and a clustering of many specific intellectual cultures (see here). The main disadvantage is the very high living costs in Silicon Valley. Options in the East Bay are relatively cheaper, and would put one within commuting distance but not walking distance of the best the area has to offer.
  2. The Boston/Cambridge area: There are two world-class universities (Harvard and MIT).
  3. The New York area: New York City has a large number of schools for gifted children, including private schools, as well as gifted and talented education programs in the public schools. The main drawback is the high cost of living.
  4. The Chicago area: Chicago has a world-class university (University of Chicago) but may not otherwise be too attractive. There are many good schools in the suburban areas, as well as the University of Chicago Lab Schools in the city. The cost of living is considerably lower than in the other top metropolitan areas.

Look for specific educational institutions and resources

If the nature of the child's needs is relatively clear, it may make sense to look for places that are good at meeting those specific needs. Some possibilities are discussed below.