What if the Grads Move Away?
November 30, 2001
State economic development officials often argue that if their states invest more in education, college graduates will constitute a better-educated workforce -- which will attract more high-skilled jobs.
But as desirable as a premium workforce may be, there is a consideration that goes unaddressed: what if those grads move to another state?
Economist John Bound of the University of Michigan and three co-authors say there is a relationship between degree production and the concentration of college-educated workers in a state's population in the long run -- but it's not anywhere near as large as economic development officials might want.
- A recent study reported that "states awarding relatively large numbers of BA degrees... have somewhat higher concentrations of college-educated workers"; however, the link is relatively weak.
- Increasing the output of college graduates in a state by 10 percent, say, has a much smaller effect on the education level of the state workforce.
- College-educated workers are quite mobile and, the study found, are not closely tied to their alma mater at all.
Whatever the arguments for states' investment in education, producing a highly-educated, loyal and permanently-attached workforce may not be one of them.
Source: Michael J. Mandel, "Economic Trends: College-Town Confidential," Business Week, November 26, 2001.
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