Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Migration Wars

Migration and regional transportation are hot-button topics for Pittsburgh. I have a simple view of the transportation issue, because I don't know enough about it. Generally, I support the plans that help people get in and out of Pittsburgh, not around the region. But my vote is still for sale (not that my vote counts).

Concerning migration, I've dug in my heels. Patterns of migration are well understood, rare for the social sciences. This clarity is muddled thanks to the political charge of the issue. Outside of the quantitative modeling, not all migrants are created equal. Keeping Pittsburgh in focus, I offer three key migration points:

1) There is a strong positive correlation between mobility and wealth/education. Cheaper transportation and communication is feeding the current wave of migration, domestic and international. Your ability to pick up and move to a new place can greatly increase your economic options. Labor, particularly the rich and smart, is getting better at chasing capital.

2) Borders and distance still matter. Barriers of entry divert both capital and labor. Both seek the path of least resistance. People are still more likely to migrate nearby rather than faraway, toward the outsider-friendly over the xenophobic.

3) In-migration, not out-migration, should be the numbers of concern. Labor mobility is increasing, playing evermore the opportunist. In America, we are turning into location whores. Plenty of people are leaving Las Vegas, but you don't notice them because of the massive influx. Secondary and tertiary migrations are becoming much more significant.

Pittsburgh, like everywhere else, is going to experience a brain drain. What the region needs is another region to pillage. Let's devise a plan to steal their human capital.


Amos_thePokerCat said...

While we know migration after the fact, I am not the convinced how accurately we can predict it.

Finding an area worst off than PIT and appling the Theory of the greater fool of migration to it. Humorous, not likely.

While PIT has lost population in the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's. Within 200 miles, or so, we have Columbus, which is booming, at least for the east coast, gaining population every decade we have lost it. CLE which clearly lost less people percentage-wise than PIT during the 80's and 90's combined. CLE actually grew diring the 90's! You have to go to BUF before you find a city almost as hard hit as PIT.

Heck, look at some realatively recent city to city migration data, more people were interested in living in Youngstown than here! Youngstown! Have you been to Youngstown? I have.

Jim Russell said...

I've been to Youngstown. I road the Greyhound through there last weekend. Where do you think the people who relocated there are working? In Youngstown?

We do a pretty good job predicting migration patterns and flows. But we do have trouble with predicting the key variables of any migration model.

The unexpected part of the Pittsburgh migration story concerns the large number of people moving to Phoenix and Tampa. That's a long way to go. Recent migration studies have attempted to explain this flow. The answer, as you know, is retirees. We are still learning about this migration pattern.

Have you heard of "half-backs"? These are people who go to Florida but only make it half-way back to Pittsburgh, relocating in places such as North Carolina.

To the extent that retirees explain the net loss of people from Pittsburgh should be cause for celebration.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

Ya, I read about your bus travel. Pretty amusing but not compelling enough for the travel channel. Riding through Youngstown (or the bus station there) is different than actually hanging out there, or at least having a meal there. Next time you are in Akron check out the Barberton Fried Chicken! Eastern Europen fried chicken. Now there is a regional cult resource.

Most of the traffic to Y-town might be older college students. They probably only relocate for a couple of years. Bounce back to Y-Town before moving up the ladder, and out of the area.

Never heard of "half backs". Doesn't suirprise me. I had a childhood neighbor that was gung ho to retire to FL from day one. He and his family always vacationed there, Disney, etc. He always joked about "The hotter, the better". It toke just one good hot FL summer to get him complaining.

I disagree the retires explain the population loss. Take a look at a number of docs over at CMU's Heinz School's Center for Economic Dev.

Who is Leaving Pittsburgh? Clearly, the youngest are the most mobile, and more are leaving here, than other cities. But it is across the board, all age groups. Not just retires.

Check out The Root of Pittsburgh's Population Drain. Neat chart showing the loss of young children not born into the area because their parents (and even grandparents now) moved away decades ago.

Finallly, Origins and Destinations of Pittsburgh Migrants. This shows the obvious, that most migration to and from PIT is into PA. More than half! So, the people that would know PIT the best, those living in PA, are those that leave PIT, or even better, will not move there.

You want to have more people move here, than you have to start with those closest.

Jim Russell said...

First, thanks for the links to the reports. I eat this stuff up.

Look at the conclusion of the 2nd report you cite, "The Root of Pittsburgh Population Drain".

"While the region had lost relatively few residents to migration, it was unable to replace them from other domestic sources. Due to the lack of new blood from outside the region, an insular culture has developed in many regional communities. Newcomers often express difficulty in acclimating to life in the region compared to their experiences in communities with a large number of recent arrivals."

Pittsburgh's out-migration story is nothing special. The lack of in-migration is the problem and sets Pittsburgh apart from other regions.

Young people are going to leave, any region. And old people are not flocking to Pittsburgh, which is a good thing for the regional economy.

The game is attracting young outsiders to the Pittsburgh region.

You say, "Clearly, the youngest are the most mobile, and more are leaving here, than other cities."

The reports do not say that the out-migration of young people is worse in Pittsburgh than in other cities. The out-migration of retirees is overlooked while the out-migration of young adults is sensationalized.

Jim Russell said...

Raid Buffalo? Sound good. Let's hear the plan. How do we sack Buffalo?