Janko takes issue with the coverage of a recent Forbes list of dying American cities. I share Janko's frustration, though I'm not all that worried about the national or global branding of Rust Belt cities. I'm more concerned with how the people of Youngstown or Cleveland perceive their hometowns, which is why I obsess the weekly flow of brain drain hysteria in various outlets of journalism. Real policy will stem from these reports and the result is usually a colossal waste of scarce regional resources.
That brings me to a recent exchange with Brian Kelsey, the blogger behind Civic Analytics. Brian agreed to crunch some IRS data detailing the migration ledger of Ohio. His preliminary results are posted here:
To get at Jim's points about potential differences in incomes, per capita income for people moving to Ohio from other states in 2006-07 was $25,553, compared to $28,502 for people leaving Ohio. Using observations from all 88 counties, the difference in income was statistically significant at the .05 level. I could not find a statistically significant difference in incomes when including both in-state and out-of-state movers. This doesn't nearly address Jim's points fully, but it's a start.
What started me on the crusade to clarify the issue of brain drain is the disparity between the perception that everyone was leaving Pittsburgh and the fact that the rates of out-migration were and are relatively low. Everywhere I looked, I saw the same misinformation: The exodus of the early 1980s still held sway in how people understand the problems of today. That college graduates leave any and every region shouldn't be news at this stage of tracking the migration of talent.
Brian's first crack at the data indicates, in my estimation, that there well may be a surprising lack of out-migration from Rust Belt states such as Ohio. However, this story won't sell newspapers or books about where creative types prefer to live. Furthermore, politicians are feasting on brain drain anxiety with one boondoggle after another. Businesses can also make hay with their own solution to the "crisis": Lower taxes. The shame is that the same solutions are being recycled for a concern that has long since evaporated.
Your move, Ohio.