Thursday, May 22, 2008

Upper Midwest losing young workers to other areas, perhaps changing its basic character

Wisconsin, Nebraska, the Dakotas and neighboring states are losing young workers who are not sticking around following graduation from high school or college. These workers represent a "valuable commodity in the Upper Midwest [that] is draining away," Celeste Headlee reports for National Public Radio.

In a recent story that is part of NPR's ongoing series The Bottom Line, which investigates how the current economic downturn is affecting people and their communities, Headlee says that graduates are more likely to head east, west or south to search for a better lifestyle. "People go where they think they're going to get work," Iowa State University economist John Swinson said. "Jobs go to where they think they're going to find they right kind of people. Where those two things intersect currently isn't in the Midwest or the Plains."

"Moving statistics from moving companies really tells a tale of whether states are having in-migration or out-migration, and the Midwest and Illinois are suffering from out-migration at a very large rate," said John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute. He said Illinois, a major agricultural state with many rural residents, has lost more than 700,000 in the last decade. Such losses are not restricted to metro areas as, according to Tillman; 75 percent of counties in the upper Midwest have experienced population declines.

"Every state in the Midwest has been doing everything they can think of to stimulate growth to try to entice, bribe or otherwise subsidize economic development, whatever it takes to remain competitive they've tried it" Swinson said. Curt Metzger, director of research for the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, said states can't sit back and wait for things to improve, and it is time for a complete change of mindsets. "Those Midwest values that we all feel very strongly about, the whole idea was, 'Yeah the kids are going to go away because kids always do, but they're going to come back when it's time to raise a family,' but it doesn't happen anymore." Metzger said that states need to move beyond reforming tax structures and developing new industries. This, according to him, includes an update to Midwestern values that could mean changing everything we know about the Midwest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are both 'brain drain' Native Upper Midwesterners. (He's a MN native while I'm a SD native.) He's an aerospace engineer and I'm a teacher. We'd love to live closer to home. We don't because of: 1) lack of stable employment in our fields that pay a comparable wage (for example, if I moved home I would take a $15-20K pay cut-- if I could find a job-- while real estate prices are not that much lower) and 2) lack of innovative businesses to employ my husband. I think that the idea that Upper Midwestern values need to be revamped is pure bunk. However, I think that the loss of educated natives and the influx of monied retirees from other areas will change the values of the area. In fact, I think that it is already happening in my home, the Black Hills of South Dakota.