Sunday, November 01, 2009

Brain Drain Report: The Null Hypothesis

One of the academic advisers on my dissertation committee was vigilant against personal bias. He went (probably still does) so far as to recommend studying a place you hated. In geography, most scholars do research in a location they love, which might cause you to push your work towards expected results. A tool that can help a scholar guard against seeing what you want to see is the null hypothesis:

Retaining talent is an effective approach to regional workforce development.

Instead of debunking brain drain myths, I look for an underlying rationale for the concern and functioning brain drain plugs. For example, brain drain is costly:

About 35,000 kids leave New Jersey each year to go to college and take about $6 billion with them.

"When you factor in tuition, transportation and all other student spending, there is significant revenue leaving the state," said Paul Shelly of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities. "My calculations put it at $6 billion."

Shelly says the money isn’t going far, either. Most New Jersey students stay in the Mid-Atlantic or New England.

"New Jersey does much research as to where the students are going. I don’t think they want to admit our money is being exported just over to Lehigh Valley or down in Delaware."

A new research report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy does not beat around the bush. Titled “Empire State Exodus,” the report begins with a blunt statement: “The Empire State is being drained of an invaluable resource—people.” ...

... Those who leave the Rochester area go where you might expect: Nearly 72 percent migrated to southern states, and 15 percent headed west.

Actually, that's not where I would expect. I would predict that most out-migrants don't move far from home, as is the case in the New Jersey (see above). But the point of this exercise is to find information and analysis that challenge my assumptions, aiding my attempt to prove the null hypothesis.

In looking to plug the incessant drain that happens each spring when newly minted college graduates flee Rhode Island for bigger metropolises, this state might do well to take a lesson from Philadelphia, experts say. ...

... “Statistics say the more students you get engaged in internships as early as you can, the higher retention rate you’re going to have because they know the businesses and they get more comfortable with the work environment within that community,” said Richard Bendis, founding president and chief executive officer of Innovation America, a public private partnership that worked on the Philadelphia project.

By 2008, Campus Philly had placed thousands of bright students in work programs. Not coincidently, it also vaulted itself to the top of several lists of best cities in America for young grads.

Rhode Island officials say they hope the Providence region can follow Philadelphia’s lead, crafting a concrete solution to help address a decades-old problem.

“We’re looking to use Philly as a template for building on our strengths,” Daniel P. Egan, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island, said at a “knowledge retention symposium” held Friday at Brown University and sponsored by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce’s “Innovation Providence” program.

That would explain all the internship programs I see popping up around the country. Philadelphia has crafted the silver bullet (plug?) for brain drain. Thus, I've disproved the central hypothesis of this blog. My work here is done.

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