Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Richard Florida Pimps Talent Retention

Always implicit, but never explicit; Richard Florida stands for talent retention. The anecdotes spell e-x-o-d-u-s. Maps of the data starkly paint urban agglomeration economies (i.e. talent attraction). Why do so many people leave San Francisco, New York and Chicago? Florida's think tank has an answer:

Our findings indicate that place-based factors, in particular the beauty and physical appeal of the current location and the ability to meet people and make friends, explain more of the desire to stay than does community economic conditions or individual demographic characteristics.

The reason the Creative Class is fleeing America's cool cities is that local place-based factors are lacking. The study looks at why people would want to leave their current residence. The placed-based variables come out on top.

My read of the research design is that the survey doesn't measure why people left. Instead, as the literature review contends, the rationale for why people stay is explored. The location decision is a hypothetical. Do you intend to leave? Why?

We don't know how many people who answer yes to the first question actually leave. That would make for an interesting follow up study. We also don't know how much place-based development strategies would increase those who would admit to sticking around the old haunts.

I have a suggestion. Survey your regional workforce. Find out what would make them move away from home. Next, find a few cities that fit that profile and compare that region's outmigration rate with yours. Then revisit the importance of measuring talent's expressed desire to stay.

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