Friday, March 27, 2009

Wisconsin's sticky brains

I have a secret algorithm for filling out my NCAA basketball bracket, since I know nothing about basketball, that entails complex calculations filling numerous spreadsheets. In collecting the data I needed to make my picks last week, I came across two interesting slices of Census data, which when juxtaposed got me thinking beyond basketball. Which is worse, when brains drain, or when brains don't attain?

Wisconsin, it seems, ranks 5th "stickiest" in terms of the adult population residing in the state that was born in the state, with 68.6% of those born here still living here as adults. The top ten, in order, are:
  1. Texas

  2. North Carolina

  3. Georgia

  4. California

  5. Wisconsin

  6. Michigan

  7. Tennessee

  8. Minnesota

  9. Utah

  10. South Carolina
Of the top ten sticky states, two are very big states, Texas and California, which afford their population the opportunity to move around to quite varied environments without leaving the state, and one is Utah, which has a family-centered culture among young people unlike any other state, with a very low median age for first marriages and the nation's highest birth rate.

Of the remaining 7 states, 4 are Southern states (North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina). The others are upper Midwestern (Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota). I guess you could reason something about the hardiness of our genes allowing us to brave the winter year after year, after year.

But the striking chart above shows a difference between us and the Southerners more dramatic than our climates: Of the ten most sticky states, only Utah and the three upper Midwest states have rates of secondary and post-secondary education surpassing the national average. Could the other states' stickiness result less from a choice to stay put and more from their native population lacking opportunities anywhere else?

Maybe a slight brain drain is the price of having a good educational system. It would be easy to stem all out-migration if we hobbled young people by not educating them sufficiently. Trickier is to enable them to be able to compete with anyone, anywhere in the world, for a job--and then ensuring that they have jobs worth competing for right here in Badgerland. Trickier, even, than a Hardaway crossover move.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suspected as much. What this suggests is that we already have our best and brightest right here in state working for the greater good of all. And now doesnt that say alot right there.