Saturday, September 10, 2011

Exodus British Columbia

Migration statistics are a political football. The numbers justify expenditure. This convention center is necessary. Support the bond or shrink into oblivion. I've read about many brain drain boondoggles and outmigration hysteria, the piles of red herring. British Columbia takes the cake:

Liberal critic Christy Clark once congratulated the NDP for fostering 200 per cent growth in one Nanaimo company - a moving business. It was booming on the great trek to Alberta.

More than once tears sprung to my eyes at the horror of it all. I imagined my own children being forced across the border by those NDP ogres. I shuddered at the thought of them developing that thick Alberta accent.

Would I ever see them again? Would I even understand them, if they called?

The interprovincial migration rate was one of the foundations for the catchphrase summation of the NDP years as "the dark decade of decline."

You might detect a hint of sarcasm. The entire piece is an excellent rebuke of the vote with your feet myth. Politicians are taking advantage of a primal fear. We must protect this house.

Talent retention comes from the same place as xenophobia. Native talent is better than foreign talent.

Difficult to swallow, foreign talent tends to be better than native talent. Geographic mobility equals success. An inert population is a sign of decline.

Which brings me to Mike Madison's (Pittsblog) essay about Pittsburgh demographics and diversity. The flip side to fetishizing the local is the outsider as hero. AnnaLee Saxenian's book "The New Argonauts" is an excellent example. Innovation, immigration, and globalization all come together in creating spectacular wealth and economic development. Promoting brain circulation is good policy.

How do we promote brain circulation? Embrace diversity and increase tolerance. A more diverse and tolerant community is a good goal. But I think Mike overstates the case when he says, "Pittsburgh's lack of diversity is actively hurting the region."

Intolerance isn't much of a barrier to migration. A more tolerant Cleveland won't suddenly be overwhelmed with immigrants. Hispanics didn't move to Hazleton, PA because the city came a-courtin. I wouldn't expect a more tolerant Pittsburgh to become a more diverse Pittsburgh.

The problem, as I see it, is risk aversion. The least risk averse tend to leave any region. Are they being replaced by risk takers from other regions? The demographic indicators Mike cites take the temperature of Pittsburgh's risk appetite. The region isn't very hungry.

The issue isn't a lack of tolerance or diversity. There isn't much Pittsburgh could do about that, anyway. However, Pittsburgh could do a lot to increase the appetite for risk. Mike has promoted policies that I think would work. Implementing these ideas is another story. That's the Catch 22. In order to get less risk averse, Pittsburgh has to get less risk averse. Letting go of your progeny is tough to do.


DBR96A said...

There's xenophobia, and then there's xenophilia, which is irrational favoritism toward outsiders. The three hallmarks of a xenophile are as follows: 1) They prefer outsiders simply because they're outsiders. 2) They're indifferent at best to the local culture, and sometimes even hostile and disrespectful of it. 3) They believe that a lack of racial diversity is a symptom of racism and intolerence.

I just got done comparing the racial diversity of 18 different cities proper in the Northeast, northern Mid-Atlantic and Midwest: Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul (combined), New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Rochester, St. Louis and Washington DC, and found some interesting stuff.

For example, I determined that all Pittsburgh would need for near-normal racial diversity is to swap 30,000 whites for 5,000 blacks and 25,000 Hispanics. Pittsburgh actually did well with Asians. New York, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago (in that order) had a higher percentage of Asians in their city limits than Pittsburgh did. If foreign immigrants prefer to go where others like them have gone, then I'd say Pittsburgh's best bet is to keep growing its connection with Asia.

Mike Madison said...

DBR96A's conclusion is 100% consistent with mine, both in the post that Jim linked to and in earlier posts at Pittsblog.

Jim Russell said...

Leveraging an established talent flow is good policy. How might Pittsburgh best leverage the Asian connection? I'm much more sympathetic to an international flight subsidy than a tolerance initiative.

It's nice to think that being more tolerant will attract more immigrants. I haven't come across anything credible that would support such an assertion.