Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Tale of Migration and Mobility

Don't believe the hype. That applies to this blog as well. I'm assuming that as the Knowledge Economy develops, labor mobility will increase. International labor mobility may be increasing, but trends within the United States are less clear. The graph to the right indicates that the percentage of Americans on the move has been in steady decline over the past 50 years.

My sense is that migration stories tend to be sensationalized. Immigration issues make an excellent lightening rod, or a fine dish of red herring. Concerning Pittsburgh, the shrill is that everyone is leaving. The region is leaking people and we have to figure out a way to patch the holes.


The more I look at the data, the less evidence of outmigration I find. The 2000 US Census describes mobility in terms of current state of residence and state of birth. The three states with the least number (as a percentage of total population) of natives in 2000 were Nevada (21.3%), Florida (32.7%), and Arizona (34.7%). The states with greatest number of natives were Louisiana (79.4%), Pennsylvania (77.7%), and Michigan (75.4%).

I speculated that Colorado natives were becoming an endangered species. Colorado had the 6th least amount of natives (41.1%). What this describes is significant inmigration, something Pennsylvania clearly lacks. We already know that Pennsylvanians are some of the least likely to leave. Couple that with the relatively few newcomers and you might understand the perception that Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania are increasingly parochial.

Another way to understand the findings is to view Pennsylvania as relatively inert.


John Morris said...

I think this is a case in which people are really talking about "who" is leaving or not staying. People with very high skills and high energy, have tended to leave and I think that people sort of know that intuitively.

You talk to people and mention someone who left and often people will remember that person so well because they were important while they were here or seemed to have a lot of drive or they know how well they did after they left.

I don't want to use the term "brain drain" but that is what was happening in the past but may now be changing.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

Less evidence of outmigration? Really? Those states with the highest percentage of natives say *nothing* about how many people left, only how few people moved here.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

I guess you did not see the Census MSA estimates for 2005 released in June. PIT lost population again. Nearly at the bottom of the list again.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

Here is:


PIT is #7 (84.34%), PHI #132 (67.29%) out of 318 areas.

Jim Russell said...

Responding to John Morris:

People with very high skills and high energy will often leave any region. These are pioneer types looking for the frontier. But that's just a hypothesis on my part. I would be interested in seeing some demographic data on outmigration from various regions.

Jim Russell said...

Amos, I previously posted the data for outmigration. PA had the 47th (out of 51) least amount of outmigration.

You previously referenced reports that came to the same concluision, relatively little outmigration, for Pittsburgh.

Slice it any way you want, outmigration isn't the problem. The lack of inmigration is the problem.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

Again, I thought the focus was mainly on PIT, not PA. Second, this mobility data says nothing about inmigrantion, or outmigration. That PIT has one of the lowest mobility while PHI is in the middle. The state average blurs the stark difference between the two ends of the state.

Jim Russell said...

"Second, this mobility data says nothing about inmigrantion"

The data does say something about inmigration. Furthermore, if you couple this data with the actual outmigration/inmigration data as I did in this post, you have a compelling story about the lack of mobility for the State of Pennsylvania.

As you point out, the Philly region will be somewhat higher than the mobility average for the state. Pittsburgh is likely even less mobile than the state average. At least, that is what you would expect given your analysis.

Low mobility is primarily a result of a lack of inmigration. In other words, there are few outsiders moving in to reduce the percentage of natives still residing in Pittsburgh.

You need to make up your mind. First you say, "Those states with the highest percentage of natives say *nothing* about how many people left, only how few people moved here." To paraphrase, the mobility data does say something about inmigration.

In your most recent comment, you state, "econd, this mobility data says nothing about inmigrantion, or outmigration."

Did you have a change of heart?

Amos_thePokerCat said...

No, I did not change my mind. I just do not mix apples (city migration data) with oranges (state migration data). While was was not as clear as possible, given the order of the comments I was assuming the context was clear.

1) mobility data, by definition, will tell you nothing about how many people left. If you have 100K, 10K, 9K enter. You still have 90% native. You know how many entered. There is no way for you to figure out how many people left. I could have be 5k, 10k, 20k. It is unknown from just the mobility data.

2) State wide migration data tells me nothing about PIT migration data, in, out, or other.

Those were my points. Both are still true.