Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Brain Drain Mythologies

Libertarians are fond of saying that people vote with their feet. The usual line of reasoning offered is that high-taxes push folks (and businesses) out and everyone heads to where government is smaller. You want to stop brain drain? Then cut taxes.

There is some truth to the above policy prescription, but it is overstated (to put it mildly). Consider the top 10 states where the natives aren't so restless:

  1. New York
  2. Louisiana
  3. Michigan
  4. Pennsylvania
  5. Ohio
  6. Illinois
  7. Iowa
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Minnesota

82.1% of the people currently residing in New York State were born there. The same is true for 73.8% of residents living in Minnesota. Contrast that with where I live. Only 46.9% of my fellow Coloradoans were born in-state. Keep that in mind the next time someone suggests lowering taxes in order to keep brains from leaving. Boondoggles come in all shapes and sizes.


Jerry said...

I think I am not getting this.

Couldn't the fact that only 46.9% of Coloradoans were born in-state just as easily indicate that lots of people are migrating there -- perhaps, in part, for the lower taxes?

Jim Russell said...


If we considered just in-migration, then the libertarian narrative has greater explanatory power. But brain drain policy isn't oriented that way. The obsession is with the people who leave.

Colorado struggles to retain its homegrown talent, more so than many Rust Belt states. The idea that bloated government and high taxes are pushing people out is, to borrow a phrase, a journalistic felony.