Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Midwest Exodus

Brewed Fresh Daily noticed an NPR story about the Midwest's brain drain problem. The crisis is framed in terms of out-migration and described in apocalyptic terms. I listened to the podcast twice to make sure I heard what I thought I heard. Perhaps NPR unfairly edited the interviews with policy analysts and academics, but a nuanced understanding of the demography was not forthcoming.

NPR took a decidedly sensationalist angle, as the title of the story demonstrates: Young Workers Flee Midwestern States. Rarely do journalists scratch beneath the surface of brain drain hysteria and discover a much more complex problem. NPR did not mention the lack of in-migration or declining birth rates. Instead, an aging Michigan is simply the result of young people leaving after they graduate. If the Rust Belt is going to grapple with human capital deficits successfully, the mega-region must first grasp fully the demographic landscape. Unfortunately, the media is not helping matters.

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