Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crime And Migration

Imagine politicians touting the crime problem in their cities. Rallying a constituency to address the issue is one thing. But when image and civic pride are at stake:

The National Conference of Mayors called the report a “premeditated statistical mugging of America’s cities,” saying the rankings are “bogus.”

St. Louis mayor Francis Slay said on Twitter yesterday “Crime stats reflect crimes. Crime stats rankings reflect how we draw our boundaries.”

Cities defending themselves against negative lists and rankings is an old story. It makes sense. Geographic stereotyping affects the regional bottom line. Neither talent nor business wants to move to a bad place. Which is why I find the public airing of brain drain perplexing.

Neither talent nor business wants to move to a place everyone is leaving. Statistically speaking, the complaints about brain drain are bogus. Yet no one is interested in debunking this myth. Instead, politicians and other civic leaders act to amplify the hysteria. Why?

Policies designed to retain graduates are a waste of money. When brain drain is used to justify public expenditure, then the voters can be sure that the project isn't worth the money. Tax cuts? Once outmigration is invoked, the lobbyists are the ones doing the talking. Special interests love to talk about brain drain.

Stories about more crime are a public relations disaster. The spin doctors come out in force, employing damage control. Let's put aside the discussion about urban crime. Better to focus on the brain drain, a problem that doesn't exist.

No comments: