Monday, August 17, 2009

Pioneers Of Migration

I spent Friday and Saturday in Youngstown, Ohio discussing my diaspora networking project with many regional stakeholders. Thursday and Sunday were travel days and I'm just beginning to catch up with e-mail and blogging duties. One of the components of our efforts is mapping out-migration. (A link to one of our maps was posted in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal last Thursday) In the big meeting at the Youngstown Business Incubator, I endeavored to explain the pattern. The same kind of network migration that has the Brazilian population booming in Martha's Vineyard also help to inform the destination for Youngstown brain drain:

A migration network, legal or illegal, typically grows by word of mouth, starting with a small group of pioneers. When Lyndon Johnson Pereira’s time on Martha’s Vineyard was nearing its end, he told his childhood friends Manuel and Edilson, immigrants living in Boston, that a restaurant on the island was hiring. Word travelled fast: that tip resulted in more than 20 Brazilians, almost all young men from Pereira’s home state, showing up to work the following summer. Most arrived with Pereira’s same twist on the American dream: to make enough money to build a better life in Brazil.

Most Rust Belt cities are in desperate need of the above type of pioneers, international or domestic. This is why Ann Arbor struggles to get out from under Detroit's shadow. No one is sending word back home about opportunity there and all of flyover country continues to suffer from the broad brush strokes of economic misfortune.

What shocked most of my audience was the large number of out-migrants who stayed in the Rust Belt. No, not everyone left the cloudy days behind for Sun Belt splendor. Save those hardy pioneers, the apple doesn't fall from the tree unless you know someone who travelled a long way from home. Thus, refugees from one state (California) in deep economic crisis keep heading to another state (Oregon) with similar problems. And thus, why most people who left Youngstown went to Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Columbus.


Tyler said...

Thanks again for the great presentation.

Jim Russell said...

You are welcome, Tyler. I greatly enjoyed Tour de Youngstown 2009.

Viva la renaissance!