Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Boston Is Dying

Once again, brain drain anxiety grips Beantown. College graduates are fleeing the region, heading to New York and San Francisco. Boston is dying:

Greater Boston has never had a problem attracting talent. The region’s 76 colleges and universities and almost 350,000 students virtually guarantee a steady stream of knowledge-workers-in-training. Our bigger challenge is keeping this young, educated population from leaving Massachusetts once they’ve crossed the stage and received their diplomas. Data presented from WCCP’s new Talent Magnets report show that too often we lump together all of these various reasons that push people out of the Commonwealth without regard for importance, timing, or life needs. We give each reason equal weight, which diminishes the effectiveness of our response. By breaking down talent needs into life stages, policy makers can better prioritize talent retention strategies.

I'll spare everyone the sermon about how talent retention initiatives are foolish and self-destructive. Greater Boston has never had a problem with brain drain. Looking at recent American Community Survey data, Boston is a hot spot for brain gain.

From 2008-2011 (post-Great Recession era migration), Boston gained more college graduates than San Francisco did. That was good enough for 8th place among the 51 metros with a population of 1,000,000 or more people. For total population with a college degree, Boston ranks 6th. There aren't many cities in the entire world with a better talent pool.

Indeed, many of the college educated do leave Boston after graduation. That's the case everywhere, including New York City and San Francisco. Young adults are location whores. Hyper-geographic mobility defines this demographic cohort.

Boston attracts more college graduates than it loses. At some point in the near future, if it hasn't happened already, Boston will have more people with a bachelor's degree than does the San Francisco MSA. Why does Beantown look longingly at the Bay Area? The jealous gaze should be in the other direction. Better to be in Greater Greater New York than isolated on the Left Coast.

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