Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Class of 1987 Diaspora

Pittsburgh has many sub-diasporas. The Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh connects the scattered Jewish community via news from back "home." You can see certain cliques in your local Steelers Bars, most commonly people from the same high school congregating together. You can find the same phenomenon in Buffalo, along with the same misplaced focus on brain drain:

Experts say [brain drain is] a bit overhyped. Even if Buffalo were Boston or San Francisco or Charlotte, N.C., the area still would lose many of its brightest, most promising young people to somewhere else.

“The people who leave are the highly educated people, and that’s true everywhere,” said Peter A. Morrison, a demographer with the RAND Corp. — and a native Buffalonian now living in Nantucket, Mass. “I wouldn’t expect that the most highly educated would be any greater share among those leaving Buffalo than among those leaving any other major city in the country.”

Generally, he said, people who leave their hometown — wherever it is — are the type who are willing to take a chance, seek out opportunities, and work hard to succeed, much like the immigrants who entered this country through Ellis Island a century ago.

And among the people who leave home, those who are highly educated have more-specialized skills and expertise, putting them in a national or even global marketplace of jobs, rather than a regional one.

Yet family keeps these expatriates connected to Buffalo, and some even return. Many continue to care from afar and keep close tabs on the doings in and around the city. Regardless, worrying about the exodus of locals is pointless, at least from the policy perspective.

Despite the article's balanced approach to the brain drain concern, it fails to investigate what draws outsiders to Buffalo. The region continues to obsess why people leave or stay. That so many did leave is a testament to local education. Buffalo's problem is that it shares too little of the "global marketplace of jobs."

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