Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pittsburgh Is Dying...Again

That's right. You heard it here second. Pittsburgh is dying. Again. Richard Florida (who else?) with the dirty details:

At the other end of the scale, the metro with the lowest retention rate is Phoenix with 36.3 percent, followed closely by Providence. Hartford is third, and Austin—a leading tech hub—is fourth. Rochester, Virginia Beach, Salt Lake City, Buffalo, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh round out the ten metros with the lowest grad retention rates. ...

... On the flip side, the bottom ten metros include Phoenix (with a paltry 18 percent retention rate), Hartford, Virginia Beach, Providence, and New Orleans, with Rochester, Buffalo, Sacramento, Austin, and Oklahoma City completing the top ten. Baltimore (44 percent), Washington, D.C. (44 percent), and Pittsburgh (43 percent) also have modest retention rates. My own research was spurred by the outmigration of my former Carnegie Mellon students from Pittsburgh.

The first hall of shame concerns both two-year and four-year college grads. The second hall of shame focuses on the four-year cohort, which aligns with the usual educational rate cited in the ubiquitous brain drain hysteria. It's a rough proxy for the coveted creative class.

I wouldn't make too much about such pap save for Florida's unambiguous confession about patient zero, Pittsburgh. The malady? Talent was leaving the campus of Carnegie Mellon for, wait for it ... Austin:

I asked the young man with the spiked hair why he was going to a smaller city in the middle of Texas, a place with a small airport and no professional sports teams, without a major symphony, ballet, opera, or art museum comparable to Pittsburgh's. The company is excellent, he told me. There are also terrific people and the work is challenging. But the clincher, he said, is that, "It's in Austin!" There are lots of young people, he went on to explain, and a tremendous amount to do: a thriving music scene, ethnic and cultural diversity, fabulous outdoor recreation, and great nightlife. Though he had several good job offers from Pittsburgh high-tech firms and knew the city well, he said he felt the city lacked the lifestyle options, cultural diversity, and tolerant attitude that would make it attractive to him. As he summed it up: "How would I fit in here?"

Are you giggling yet? You should be. Revisit the bottom 10 lists for both categories. If Pittsburgh is bad, Austin is arguably worse. Has tolerance there gone to shit? Perhaps.

Or, catering to the creative class has nothing to do with talent retention. This June, I will have studied brain drain for ten years. The only thing I know for sure is that Richard Florida doesn't have a clue about how to keep people from leaving a region.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe Austin's low retention rate of 4 year and higher graduates is simply that in a smallish city the University of Texas at Austin is a very large university. Maybe there aren't enough places for the large number of graduates.