Thursday, March 27, 2014

The International Trade of Talent

Net migration and international trade balance don't matter at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Ironic demographics.

Subject Article: "(Mis)leading Indicators: Why Our Economic Numbers Distort Reality."

Other Links: 1. "Peak Talent."
2. "Brain Drain or ‘Outward Mobility’?"
3. "Border Guard Bob Says, ‘Pittsburgh Is Dying’."
4. "The Diaspora Report: 'Come to Sunny Pittsburgh!' OK, it's a stretch. But we can try."
5. "Diverging Demography of Baltimore and Africa."
6. "Exposing inadequacies in emigration policy."

Postscript: I really wrote the post so I could quote,  “It is not possible for emigration from 21-century India to be managed under 20 century law inspired by a 19-century mindset.” Ironically, I had to force it in there given the meat of the Foreign Policy article. Given a chance to sleep on it, I can make more sense of the marriage today. But it all really came together minutes ago on Twitter. To archive the thought, population growth is the manufacturing economic development metric of the 19th century. Educational attainment is the innovation economic development metric of the 20th century. Migration is the legacy economic metric of the 21st century. Just floating that out there for now.


The Urbanophile said...

Yes, but just when Pittsburgh supposedly turned things around and became a winner, guess what? Net migration turned positive.

Jim Russell said...

Pittsburgh probably turned things around and became a winner in 2002, or thereabouts. But no one saw it because of the negative net migration dogging the region.

D Holmes said...

A few years ago, I spent quite a few hours reviewing the historic population, land area, and household data for pretty much every major city in the US. I was initially motivated by my interest in Milwaukee, and why a city that I knew was in the midst of a long-term renaissance was stuck with the struggling/declining rust belt city label every time the latest census data were announced. In any event, a key discovery for Milwaukee was that the City actually had more households today than at its peak population (i.e., population shrinkage in an environment of growth in terms of the number of housing units). Certainty no widespread abandonment, as universally assumed by those unfamiliar with the city, but looking only at the historic population data. The household data suggested that Milwaukee was following the pattern of cities such as Seattle and Boston, only with perhaps a 2 decade lag time. Definitely not a pattern that fits with the standard narrative.

Seattle "lost" 47,000 residents from 1960 to 1970 - a period during which the number of households remained approximately the same (assuming its average household sizes mirrored those for the US as a whole). It "lost" another 37,000 residents the following decade while actually gaining 8000 households. By the time Seattle finally regained and surpassed its 1960 peak population (in 2000) it had actually gained nearly 50,000 households. So instead of a narrative by which Seattle had struggled for 40 years - barely hanging on to its population - it had actually been experiencing a profound construction boom with the 50,000 households associated with 50,000 or more new housing units (which in Seattle would translate into $20 billion or so in additional residential property. The boom in Seattle was obvious to anyone familiar with the city, and not blinded by the misleading population data.

You bring up an additional way in the which the data would be flawed in interpreting Pittsburgh's status as a revitalized city.

Jim Russell said...

D Holmes,

I'm glad you brought up household vs. population. I had forgotten about the distinction. Families have less children, particularly in cities that don't or no longer attract immigrants. Again, population could go down but # of households go up.

Recently, I started looking at total workforce numbers instead of population. Pittsburgh's workforce recovered surprisingly fast from the 80s exodus. It is now at an historic high. All the while, population declined. Net migration, too, was mostly negative.

Thank you for sharing your analysis, particularly the view of Seattle. That's a stunning perspective demonstrating the disconnect between reality and conventional statistical wisdom.