Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Brain Drain Report: Educational Attainment And Geographic Mobility

The more educated you are, the more likely you are to leave your hometown. That paradox is my blog obsession. A report from U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy confirms the relationship. A regional investment in human capital exacerbates out-migration. I've only read the executive summary, so I'll use another blog reaction as a policy sounding board:

This report is likely to frustrate policymakers and economic development officials who would like to stem the loss of talent from their states. With that said, states who seek ways to grow their economies might be able to stop the “brain drain” from their regions (and perhaps prompt more in-migration). In addition, staying local can be more attractive to students who seek a balance between work and leisure time, and as noted earlier, those individuals who are married, with children, and/or homeowners are less likely to leave.

Once again, brain drain is confused with out-migration. States that don't have a brain drain problem have more in-migration than states that do have a brain drain problem. This simple fact seems elude every libertarian who writes on the subject. Meanwhile, policymakers ignore the data and insist on recycling the same ineffective brain drain plugs. (e.g. Rhode Island, Central New York, and Louisiana)

The disconnect between talent migration research and popular perception is vast. I don't see how shrinking cities can bounce back without coming to terms with the realities of brain drain. Leadership isn't interested in helping the community face up to the challenge. Instead, it leverages the anxiety to bolster support for an expensive project or just to provide a feel-good moment. And then we have the flimflam artists who promise that their consults will keep the wayward graduates close to home. Nothing will change save your region being thousands of dollars poorer.

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