Saturday, December 26, 2009

Population Growth Secret

If you insist on boomtown growth, then I'll tell you how to do it. Angling for net gains in domestic migration is a sucker's bet. The smart money is on immigration. Detroit won't make a comeback even if Michigan builds a better brain drain plug (no matter because it won't). But even if your region is so inclined (most likely it isn't), attracting more immigrants is harder than you might expect:

After refugees are in the U.S., they’re able to move freely, so many take it upon themselves to reunite their own families, “secondary migrants,” [State Department spokeswoman Beth Schlachter] said. Buoyed by secondary migration, the [Fort Wayne] is believed to now have the largest concentration of Burmese refugees in the U.S., estimated at more than 5,000, according to Catholic Charities and other human-services agencies.
Since April, at the request of local refugee resettlement agencies, the State Department has limited “family reunification” to parents, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren. Each city’s resources available to refugees are evaluated independently, and Detroit and Fort Wayne are the only two cities with the current restrictions, Schlacter said.

Despite a foreboding economic climate, immigrants are still find their way to Fort Wayne and Detroit. Network migration is stronger than the incentive for gainful employment. By the way, that works for domestic migration as well. That helps explain why so many people are still heading to Portland (Oregon) and Charlotte (North Carolina).

I don't think enough policymakers appreciate this pattern. There is a substantial number of residual migration that is ignored. The focus on retention borders on criminal. Anyone promising to stop talent outmigration is LYING. The answer is more immigration, but politicians and consultants don't have the courage to touch that third rail. Instead, let's start another internship program that mitigates the risk local business faces when looking for new talent.

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