Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Demographers Against The World

Policymakers must hate demographers. A sound data-driven analysis doesn't go well with a politician's signature initiative. Plugging the brain drain in New Hampshire:

The report, titled “New Hampshire Demographic Trends in the Twenty-First Century,” covers many issues that have been discussed for years by [demographer Ken Johnson] and many other groups.

The Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, for example, has held discussion sessions about a shortage of young adult workers, compared to the older group of workers nearing retirement. New Hampshire has launched an entire program called Stay Work Play designed to lure and retain college graduates.

Johnson has long argued that most of this shortage is not the result of young adults leaving New Hampshire after graduating from college, but is a reflection of relatively low birth rates by the post-World War II population explosion known as the baby boom, particularly for the white non-Hispanics who make up the majority of the state’s population.

Stay Work Play feeds into the perception that talent is leaving New Hampshire in droves. Anecdotes abound. Those numbers? Don't believe them.

The program is bunk, a boondoggle. It isn't free. Somebody, usually taxpayers, is footing the bill to fix a problem that doesn't exist. The no-so-dirty-little-secret is that business is trying to outsource talent acquisition. From subsidized student loans to the Pittsburgh Promise, the public is stuck with workforce development. The costs of attrition and training are externalized. If you could stop the brain drain, then the result would be a captive labor market that will depress wages. This makes moving more attractive. Stay Work Play is economic undevelopment.

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