Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brain Drain Dallas: The Hysteria Continues

Dallas isn't cool enough to retain its young talent:

Rawlins, I love ya, I've even met ya, not that you'd know me from Adam. But I think your 'old man' view of how downtown should be is not fostering of a viable city center-- and because people like you make all the development decisions, people like me live in other, 'real' cities.

Just an anecdote: I am 26. Born and raised in Dallas. I know, forgive my modesty, everyone who graduated from every Dallas high school- public or private- within 3 years of me. Basically anyone who is a college grad and under 30 who grew up in the city, like I did. And I know most of the youngish movers and shakers who live in Dallas now. The 2 groups barely overlap. We have a huge brain drain problem in Dallas. It's not really talked about because it's not as easily quantifiable as the drop out rate or teen pregnancy. But it's a bigger problem, because it will manifest itself in 10 years and last for 30 years after that.

Did you know that not one person who represents Dallas in DC is from Dallas? Can you name the last mayor who is from our fair city? (hint: it's not Leppert, Miller, or Kirk)

I think this is huge reason for the lack of progress in continuity in the development of our city. If no one here remembers the mistakes how will we avoid them?

For the record I plan on returning and raising my family in the city, but unless I can convince them, few of my peers plan on doing the same. And you and I will be left to live next door to the hicks from east Texas and the guidos from south Jersey.

The above is a reaction to a blog post in the Dallas Morning News which serves up a Financial Times critique of the city's new Arts District. Actually, it is part of an exchange between two commenters well worth reading. The complaint is at the heart of many attempts to retain local graduates in shrinking cities. Make the downtown appealing to young adults and they won't leave. However, the point isn't whether or not Dallas scores highly on the cool factor with its Arts District.

By just about any metric, Dallas is a thriving city. It pulls in talent from all over the country. It is an attraction winner. There isn't a brain drain problem. That's because the exodus of natives doesn't matter. Using brain anxiety to sell an expensive gentrification program is no better than libertarian attempts to convince (invoking the same fear) the polity to cut taxes. Any guesses about the political leanings of those who offer the loudest critiques of the various Cool Cities initiatives? Two sides of the same coin.


Unknown said...

I went to college in Ft. Worth several decades ago, but my memory of the area is that people leave because they tire of the whole "Texas thing." Texas doesn't create or foster culture, it buys it and says, "Hey, lookee here what we got!" I think people leave to find something a little more real. Here's hoping it's a little more real down there than it was in the 80s. -carpetbaggery

Jim Russell said...

I think people leave to find something a little more real.

My experience is that the attitude you describe is quite common just about everywhere. A lot like suburban brats such as myself who can't get away from our world of tiny boxes fast enough. I'd bet a lot of young adults don't leave because they are stuck in way or another.