Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Incredibly Sophisticated Graphs on Why Mainers Leave

My guess is that they get tired of all the lobster paraphernalia. Well, if you’re a data head you just can’t settle for hear-say.  So from the get-to-know-the-candidates area of the League of Young Voters site this weekend, I followed a study posted by Anne Haskell, my representative for district 117 called Where They Go and Why?

if you live in Maine, there’s really nothing in it that you didn’t already know.  But graphs and numbers are good for the soul.

Students who choose out-of-state institutions versus in-state ones mostly have the same framework for choosing; they look for quality of education in their field of choice.  As you might expect, affordability and connections to local jobs or family play more into students choosing locally whereas students choosing out-of-state are a little more likely to rate culture as an important aspect.   For first generation college students and ones who finance more of their own education, staying local appears to be even more of a factor.

What’s interesting is that the Maine brain drain doesn’t really happen when they choose a school.  The study shows that half of Maine’s best-and-brightest students go to Maine colleges.  So that’s good.

But when they graduate from a university or college, the numbers change. Two-thirds of the best and brightest “choose” to leave.  And the reasons for staying versus leaving are entirely based on their values.  If they say that they value friends, family, recreational activities, and social connections then they’re more likely to choose to live and work in Maine.  But if they value career opportunities, a job, or its benefits they’re more likely to choose outside.  And if they’re field was technology, they were even more likely to leave Maine.

The study also looked at what areas these graduates were in since graduating – helping professions a whopping 46%.


So what conclusions to draw?  The study concludes that increasing funding in education is an option.  Since quality is an important factor, schools in Maine need to stay at or above par.  But more importantly, the study rightfully places the focus on the transition from school (either in Maine or not) to work.

… if the goal is to have and maintain a more highly educated workforce, the evidence clearly points to the need for greater economic development. If Maine is going to be competitive in the global economy, Maine must expand its economic base. Only by expanding career opportunities will Maine be capable of turning Maine’s so-called “Brain Drain” into a “Brain Gain”. Clearly this is critical to the future economic vitality of the State and its citizens.

What the study doesn’t go into is what I call breaking the cycle.  If Johnny sees helping professions as a way to make a wage, he/she will study helping professions, and with a glutton of new helping professionals wages will remain at or near stagnant.  So people will pick something different and leave.  The shift to better opportunities has to happen as the graduate enters the Maine workforce.  Universities with incubator programs and strong ties to new industries break the cycle.  Suddenly, Johnny is exposed to a new idea or way to earn a living.  And this grows the industry which grows wages, etc.  If I had $50 million, here’s where I would put it.   

There’s a couple of caveats to this though, mainly (hee hee) in that the schools of Maine are in locations that don’t really have strong commercial bases – think Orono, or Farmington.  And on the flip side, Portland, with the strongest in-state connections to commerce, lacks a strong institution to partner with.  So lots of work to be done there.  Time for lunch though.

By the way, speaking of brain drain, my fourth grade self could’ve done the graphs in this study.

1 comment:

  1. I think that the slices dedicated to those leaving for the NHL and those who accidentally wander too far north and into Canada and are seduced by poutine and Molson Dry are under-represented.