Wednesday, March 02, 2011

International Mobility Of Students

Ryan Avent (Economist) revisits the geographic mobility issue, this time considering the folly of subsidizing the film industry. I know such policy is near and dear to many in Pittsburgh. I'm not a fan of the tax credit. I'd rather the region export talent to Los Angeles. Pittsburgh isn't going to compete with that innovation cluster and almost every state seems to be fighting for the crumbs that fall off of the Southern Californian table.

I see a bigger (moving) picture. There is much to be gained by sending Pittsburgh talent to cut its teeth in LA. The benefits are more obvious if you consider study abroad programs. From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Another important challenge in student mobility is that it benefits mostly only better-off students. For instance, most participants in study-abroad programs are students enrolled at four-year colleges. This is a point of concern if we consider that almost half of those enrolled in the nation’s higher-education systems are attending a community college. It is also disheartening that low-income and minority students remain highly underrepresented among those who study abroad.

Perhaps you don't think studying abroad has any value. If that's the case, then I'm not going to change your mind. But if you do, then you can appreciate how I understand brain drain and why I would promote the export of talent.

The people who least need geographic mobility benefit the most from it. International migration is a good indicator of an entrepreneurial disposition. This is the kind of talent that could create a job anywhere, including in her struggling hometown. Relocation, particularly to a dense global city, greatly enhances the economic benefits of a given skill. You'll do more in LA with your talent than you could ever do in Pittsburgh. That's not to say you wouldn't be successful in Southwestern Pennsylvania, tax credit or no tax credit. You'll be more successful in LA.

And you will be more successful if you speak another language and are intimately familiar with a foreign culture. Your prosperity is tied to your world view, which is tough to expand if you never the leave the confines of your parochial existence.


Andy said...

Don't you love the film subsidy lobbies? If you only read the commentary in Michigan newspapers you would be convinced we were Hollywood's biggest competition, and that if we only kept the credits a couple of more years we'd have a thriving industry. Apparently some things are the same everywhere.

Jim Russell said...

Good argument in favor of subsidizing the film industry here.