Our region's growth will come not from trying to keep people in Pittsburgh, but from capitalizing on a highly mobile culture. Pittsburgh should be the physical epicenter of a much larger reality: people moving freely, bringing with them their ideas and experiences, allowing for new developments to occur.
We are heavily invested in retaining the talent produced within the region. We do nothing to derive benefits from the graduates who will surely leave. We comfort ourselves with the fact that few will return, insisting that plugging the brain drain is the only policy worth pursuing. This perspective limits the prospects of economic development.
Both Alex and I are on firm footing with our proposal that Pittsburgh do away with the Border Guard Bob mentality. However, I read an article this morning that suggests the upside of limiting geographic mobility:
"If you can't sell your house, you can't move," said Joseph Seneca, a Rutgers economist who co-authored the report, "Post-Recession America: A New Economic Geography?" ...... The decline in mobility has the biggest impact on young people, who are historically most likely to move out of state for work, said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution in Washington."They're putting their lives on hold," Frey said. "They're standing still when they really want to be moving."While lower mobility may be tough on individuals, it can be good for a region — like the Northeast — that would otherwise lose population, Frey said."If you're keeping young people, that's a good thing," he said. "It adds a lot of vitality to the community and helps to beef up the workforce."
Talent that would normally leave New Jersey during a downturn is stuck. I disagree with William Frey. Keeping young people as a result of the current circumstances is a bad thing. The inability to relocate for better opportunities is obviously a disadvantage for young people. Not so obvious is the drag on the regional economy. The lack of geographic mobility hurts the community.
Unemployment is higher than it needs to be. Wages are depressed given the glut of workers. Innovation is retarded while inmigration collapses. The town is increasingly isolated, a cul-de-sac of globalization. The local economy is unable to respond to the global restructuring.
Increasing educational attainment and geographic mobility is a better outcome for dealing with a serious recession:
If more Sebastian County high school students graduated, a $113 million total improvement in annual income performance could result.That was one of the findings from "Education, Infrastructure and Regional Income Performance in Arkansas," a study by Tom Fullerton, Enedina Licerio and Phuntsho Wangmo, presented Wednesday at the first Advances in Business Research Symposium hosted by the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith College of Business. ...... "Brain drain" - the outward migration of a more highly educated work force - may occur in the short term after improvement in educational attainment begins but not in the long term."Usually what happens when you improve work force performance, you will potentially have more people moving out of the county," Fullerton said. "As you improve educational attainment, you increase productivity levels. Two other things also happen: Businesses begin to develop in that county and the survival rate of those businesses increases. The people in them are better trained. Outside investors are attracted to those regions as well with improving educational attainment."
Brain drain is a signal that the regional economy is restructuring, for the better. The problem is that we lack the infrastructure to tap into that outmigration and speed up the positive returns from the gains in educational attainment and geographic mobility. The Pittsburgh Expatriate Network will address that oversight and catalyze growth in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The region will be the first in the United States to actively seek a dividend from the export of talent, aligning itself with an international trend (e.g. brain circulation).