Saturday, March 10, 2012

Assessing Brain Drain Miami

Not all brain drain is created equal. The economic exodus is bad brain drain. The metro is undergoing a dramatic restructuring. The result is long-term anemic inmigration. Talent won't move to a shrinking city. Good brain drain is negative net migration with strong inmigration. Talent moves in, improves, and then relocates somewhere else. Miami thinks it is suffering bad brain drain:

The steady exodus of young professionals out of South Florida — and into cities such as Seattle, Denver and Houston — has come to be referred to as the region’s “brain drain” problem. And it’s a problem that local economic leaders are deeply concerned about.

On Thursday, Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center put on its collective thinking caps in hopes of coming up with some solutions. At a lunchtime forum, Metropolitan Center Associate Director Edward Murray was joined by two speakers, one of whom fits the yuppie demographic himself, and another who spearheads a volunteer organization that mentors local youth.

All in all, the presenters identified some areas that Miami can pride itself on, and others that could certainly benefit from improvement. The bright spots include the emergence of Brickell and Wynwood as hip, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with a distinctly big-city feel. It’s neighborhoods like that that often attract the well-educated young professionals who are increasingly important in today’s economy.

Attraction gets conflated with attraction. Amenities migration is a panacea. Cool Miami will fix everything. But if you ask Richard Florida, Miami is already cool:

Miami's resurgence is being driven more by global than local forces. Miami is a hot spot for buyers from Latin America, Europe, and Asia who are drawn to its comparatively low prices as well from big U.S. metros like New York, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. ...

... This is facilitated by its global connectivity. In contrast to many other resort cities, Miami is connected by direct flights to a wide variety of global cities in Europe, Latin America, and around the world.

Read the entire post in The Atlantic. The analysis is more nuanced and even-handed than the above quote would indicate. The bad brain drain narrative is at odds with the global city narrative. Miami can't retain talent. Miami is a talent magnet.

No doubt, there is "brain drain" from Miami. Is it good or bad? Stamen Design produced a data visualization tool that allows a user to answer the question quickly.  Is your county an "exporter"? Then you have good brain drain:

"By using the IRS figures and mapping them out on U.S. highways with open-source technology provided by OpenStreetMap, they've created a roadmap of the parts of America that are losing and gaining, and the results are surprising. "We realized that if you look at the biggest 'losers,' essentially what you're looking at are the biggest cities in the U.S.," Migurski says. One of those losers: New York county, which lost $1,306,548,000 and 15,100 people. "But does that actually mean New York is a big loser?" Migurski asks. "One of our ideas was that, you're not a loser if you're losing money. You're an exporter." The sort of exporter, he says, that boosts the rest of the U.S. economy.

Indeed, Miami-Dade is an exporter. The county bleeds people and income. However, the same is true for Cuyahoga County, Ohio (Cleveland). A bit more parsing is needed. How well does each place develop people? Moving into Cleveland, the average household makes $42k. The average household moving out makes about 20 percent more. Cleveland, in my estimation, is a talent exporter. Cleveland, the place, develops people. On the other hand, households leaving Miami make $2k less than households moving in. Miami is a talent importer.

Miami is suffering from bad brain drain. But Cool Miami won't fix that problem. People develop, not places.

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