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The California Brain Drain- Student Edition

March 25, 2012

Students are the First to Go

Take your best students and send them to California schools.  Education isn’t cheap anywhere, but it is particularly expensive in California.  Pretty soon the students are tired of asking if you’d like fries with that.  They hunt for better jobs, both summer jobs, internships and full time jobs after they graduate.  It isn’t easy for them.  Students compete with two million unemployed Californians in the job hunt.  These students have bills to pay and lives to live, so they look elsewhere for work.  They look in states where industry is growing and rent is cheap.  That isn’t California.  Unemployment and under employment for those 25 and younger in California is over 20 percent.  Some states are a third of that.

These smart and educated young people are the most mobile of workers.  A backpack, a bus ticket, and a friend with a couch and they are gone.  Compared to other workers, students are not held in place by a mortgage.  They are not tied down by children in school.  They don’t have a six month contract to finish.  They are the first responders of the labor market.  These young people change their plans with a single text message.

Students are also an investment.  Their education takes years to pay off.  California invested in them, and other states will reap the reward.  Once they leave, these young men and women take their future with them.  Their education will pay off over time.  They will earn more than the average worker.  They take their income, and the above average families they will form, to other cities, other states and other nations looking for the good life.

This brain drain is caused by political decisions made long ago.  California decided to be a high-cost low-growth state.  That puts a particularly heavy burden on younger workers entering the labor force.  Those who stay are years behind their cohort.  The youngsters who stay in California are willing to work part time, play part time, and live in the basement.  Those who want to start a career and a family move on and move out.

This is one of the ways we pay for poor political decisions.


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2012 4:55 pm

    Losing the young is a result of systematic transfer of resources from the young to the old. I was just reading my daughter’s economic demography textbook. (she goes to Cal!) She read an article that calculated the net transfers between generations for many countries. For the industrialized countries the net transfers go from the young to the old: not even close! And we wonder why we have a birth dearth!



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