Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spain Doing The Fail

Ah, to pull a Pittsburgh. What caused the turnaround? A few years ago, Ben Schulman devised an intriguing hypothesis. "Pittsburgh, and the Magic of Failure":

The steel collapse decimated Pittsburgh and its region, taking with it nearly 1 out of every 10 jobs there. Entire towns surrounding the city became obsolete. But it is because of that failure, that absolute bottoming-out, that Pittsburgh has been able to cast aside its past and emerge as a unique showcase of what a small, bustling, connected American city can eventually become. The example of Pittsburgh is to fail on the failures and invest in the attributes- granted, of which the 'Burgh had many, in its beautiful architecture, old establishment money, intact communities and ethnic organizations, and cultural trusts and universities- that a place already has. It is a tale not so much for cities facing similar problems to the Pittsburgh of 30 years past, as it is for the country as a whole in this stage of national transmogrification.

Do the fail. For decades, Detroit staved off rapid decline. The city has finally imploded. It should have pulled a Pittsburgh long before the exodus from SW PA. As Schulman argues, fearing the fail only serves to kick the renewal can down the road.

In the magic of failure, I see an indicator of resounding success. Brain drain. Getting your shrink on. These days, one needs a lot of courage and a college degree to flee. The better educated your workforce, the more likely to leave. That's the Pittsburgh Paradox, the reason for this blog's being.

The grand irony, as I soon discovered after starting Burgh Diaspora, is that Rust Belt cities have unusually low outmigration rates. The population problem typically concerns anemic inmigration. The Great Lakes states suffer from lousy mesofacts. The best and brightest leave every community. However, none of them were moving to the Rust Belt. Thus, the Industrial Heartland was a prolific net exporter of world class talent.

Brain drain is a leading indicator of economic vitality. That's true internationally, as well as domestically. Spain doing the fail:

The National Statistic Institute (NSI) says the number of residents dropped by almost 206,000 to 47.1m - the decline entirely accounted for by foreigners.

Immigrants from Ecuador and Colombia showed the biggest fall.

The figures do not take into account many Spaniards who have left in search of work but are still on the census.

Note the collapse of migration inflow. At issue is the pull, not the push. To sum it up:

"Spain is less attractive because there are no jobs," Albert Esteve of the Barcelona Centre for Demographic Studies told Spain's National Radio.

The lack of draw is overlooked because of the hysteria about brain drain. Exodus! In Pittsburgh, the workforce numbers took about 10-years to recover. But the demographic fallout from the fail still haunts the region. Inmigration is, only recently, showing signs of returning. Using that as a guide, Spain has a long way to go before regaining talent destination status.

If Spain didn't do the fail, the country would still be less attractive. At least the prodigal sons and daughters wouldn't flee. Welcome to Detroit.


Paul Wittibschlager said...

Pittsburgh should be as lucky as Detroit. Taking today's data from, here are the job offerings for selected categories:

Info. Tech._____1017__________410

People go where the jobs are, in the case of Detroit - they're in the 'burbs. Just like Dallas.

DBR96A said...

Well there better be more job openings in Detroit, given that it's twice as large as Pittsburgh, at least at the metropolitan level.