A previous post entitled “Why I don’t always #lovelansing” prompted Cynthia Hoag to comment that generating more college students won’t save the day if they simply move elsewhere after they graduate.
The governor wants to double the number of college grads produced by Michigan. Sounds great in theory, but it will only accelerate the talent exodus from Michigan. Why? Because the wages in Michigan are so low now.” — Cynthia Hoag
Unless we get a better handle on the brain drain, each year we will have fewer productive taxpayers in our state and our city to pay for those who are too young or too old to contribute. It takes significant public funds to educate children and to take care of oldsters like me. And that becomes harder to do if the pool of folks between 21 and 65 who make money and pay taxes keeps shrinking.
Back when George W. Bush was first elected president, I used the Canadian Immigration Calculator to see whether our northern neighbor would still take me. But the Canadians aren’t dummies. Even back then, they considered me too old to make the cut. (Click here to see if Canada wants you.) So for our city and state to thrive, we must do a better job of hanging onto our recent college graduates, especially the young entrepreneurs who will generate the jobs of the future.
What we’re up against
Why do young people leave or stay? Michigan Radio’s Generation Y website wildly unscientific poll offers some clues nonetheless. The top reason listed for leaving is “I got a job somewhere else.” No other category (“I was drawn to a particular state or country,” “I hate the weather,” etc.) even came close.
So let’s dive into the official data, to see how Michigan stacks up.
|State + Rate of
|Employment||Median Hourly||Mean Hourly||Mean Annual|
|Michigan – 15.1%||4,142,750||$16.22||$20.62||$42,890|
|Alabama – 10.9%||1,945,300||$13.53||$17.39||$36,170|
|Arizona – 9.3%||2,637,830||$14.87||$18.88||$39,280|
|California – 12.5%||15,212,610||$17.52||$23.12||$48,090|
|Colorado – 6.9%||2,302,340||$16.87||$21.47||$44,660|
|Connecticut – 8.8%||10,391,420||$14.28||$18.90||$39,320|
|Florida – 11.2%||7,771,740||$14.33||$18.50||$38,470|
|Illinois – 11.0%||5,910,630||$16.30||$21.64||$45,020|
|Indiana – 9.8%||2,927,620||$14.59||$18.16||$37,770|
|Louisiana – 7.4%||1,887,370||$13.90||$17.12||$35,620|
|Nevada – 13.1%||1,278,230||$14.91||$18.75||$39,010|
|New Jersey – 9/7%||3,986,310||$18.23||$23.41||$48,690|
|New Mexico – 7.9%||819,480||$13.76||$18.03||$37,490|
|New York – 9.0%||8,633,580||$18.15||$23.84||$49,590|
|North Dakota – 4.2%||350,360||$13.81||$16.90||$35,150|
|Ohio – 10.5%||5,323,130||$15.25||$19.15||$39,820|
|Pennsylvania – 8.8%||5,705,170||$15.36||$19.53||$40,630|
|Texas – 8.3%||5,705,170||$15.36||$19.53||$40,630|
|Virginia – 6.6%||3,670,980||$16.26||$21.50||$44,720|
|Washington – 9.3%||2,868,910||$17.92||$22.32||$46,430|
This table shows that Cynthia has a point. Not only does Michigan suffer the highest unemployment rate in the nation, but our median (middle) and mean (average) wages significantly lag behind popular states such as New York, California and Colorado. Even troubled Louisiana, where the wages are far lower than ours, has roughly half our unemployment rate. If landing a job sufficient to pay off your school debt is the deciding factor in where college graduates will go, then Michigan would appear to be out of the running.
We choose cities, not states
I have a trio of progressive friends who would never want to be known as Texans, but they all live in Austin. Many people I know who would cheerfully choose prison if the other choice required living in Los Angeles. Yet most if not all of them would move to San Francisco in a heartbeat if they could find a job there. And no doubt there are many folks who would starve before resettling in Detroit, but they would be quick to take a job in Ann Arbor or Traverse City.
People choose cities, not states, as places to live. So how does Lansing stacks up compared to other cities in Michigan? We will look at the situation in Lansing on Wednesday.
Stay or Go? A look at the future of Lansing is a continuing series on Lansing Online News. Make sure to visit on Wednesday for our second installment, on whether young people #lovelansing enough to stay. Let us know if you would like to contribute.