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BILL CRAWFORD — Brain drain a gross problem for Mississippi

Brain drain in Mississippi is gross. That’s what Phil Hardwick wrote in the Mississippi Business Journal.

Citing an April report by the U.S. Joint Economic Committee on the topic of brain drain in the United States, Hardwick explained, “Gross brain drain is defined as the share of leavers who are highly educated minus the share of adults who remain in their birth state (“stayers”) who are highly educated.”

Huh?

He went on to point out, “The report showed that in Mississippi in 1970 the excess of highly educated movers over highly educated stayers was 1.24. In 1980, that number increased to 1.87. In 1990, the number had increased to 4.63, and by 2017 had skyrocketed to 16.69. Add to that fact that there was net-outmigration in the state during the past 10 years.”

Sounds kinda gross, doesn’t it?

Well, it would be really gross if the exodus of smart people from our state was surging in comparison with other states.

Uh, it is.

The report shows Mississippi and Kentucky neck and neck with the highest gross brain drain changes from 1970 to 2017.

Even worse, our brain drain rate in 1970 was among the lowest at 47th but by 2017 it was 14th and rising.

Then there is net brain drain. You see, some states attract smart people from other states to offset the loss of homegrown smart people. The report shows Mississippi does not attract very many out-of-state smart people. As a result, our net brain drain rate soars to 5th place among all states.

That sounds really gross to me too.

So, what fantastic places do our smart people head off to? The report says Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Gosh, we can’t even keep our smart people from moving off to Louisiana. How gross is that?

Hardwick goes on to cite actions other states are taking to combat brain drain, mentioning programs in Michigan, Maryland, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Vermont, Oklahoma, and Maine.

What about Mississippi?

Well, we’re doing the usual Mississippi thing…talk a lot but do little.

Oh, our universities attract smart people. A number of our top industries attract smart people. But, as the report shows, that’s not enough to keep many of our smart people here.

One of the top places where you find lots of smart people is schools. Yep, lots of smart people like to teach. But the smart ones don’t like to teach for peanuts, so they head off to states that pay more. (Could that have anything to do with our growing teacher shortages?)

Another place where you find lots of smart people is in health care. Got to be smart to pass and get licensed. Too bad health care is not a priority for our state government. (Could that have anything to do with our growing nurse shortages?)

Interesting that one of our gubernatorial candidates wants to fund schools and health care better while the other does not.

Wonder if all our brain drain over the past decades gives the latter an advantage over the former?

Hmmm.

That would be sort of a gross twist to the “grow your own” paradigm wouldn’t it?

“Mere talk leads only to poverty” – Proverbs 14:23.

» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.

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