Brain Drain in Cleveland — Still a Thing

I’ve been a little bit skeptical of the Cleveland-based research saying Cleveland’s brain drain problem is basically solved. That’s because mostly because when I see research that wasn’t produced in Cleveland, it tends to say the opposite.

Anyway, a think tank I follow, City Observatory, recently took a look at “brain drain” in a bunch of metros. So I inquired about how Cleveland fared. Joe Cortright of City Observatory passed this on to me. It’s from Jonathan Rothwell of Brookings:

Cleveland retained about 50% of local BA recipients

In 2013, IPEDS reported 10,284 BA or higher degrees awarded in Cleveland, or about 5.0 per 10,000 population.

When we multiply the BA award rate by the retention rate (5.0 * 50%) we get a 2.5 locally retained BAs per 1000 population per year. That ranks 45th of the 51 largest US metros.

Boston and Minneapolis are #1 & #2 (8.3 and 7.5, respectively)

Riverside and Las Vegas are #50 and #51 (2.0 and 2.1 respectively).

The median for large metro areas is about 4.0, which means that each year, Cleveland is locally producing and retaining about 1.5 fewer BA recipients per 1,000 population than the typical metro.

I don’t claim to be an expert on this in any way, but looking at this, it just kinda makes sense. The Cleveland metro isn’t really growing. What that means is some people are leaving (but births outnumber deaths still, and that’s why we don’t see big declines in our regional population.) It makes sense that some of the people leaving would be college grads, and so Cleveland would perform poorly on this. It also makes sense that growing, well educated metros like Boston and Minneapolis would be top performers.

Anyway, this is just one data point. And it flies in the face of some of the conclusions we seem to have arrived at recently locally. It’s not the end all be all, but we shouldn’t pretend like this issue has been resolved or that we are objectively “winning” on this issue. At least, there’s some good reason to believe that’s not the case.


Filed under Brain Drain

3 responses to “Brain Drain in Cleveland — Still a Thing

  1. Per our earlier Twitter exchange, this really doesn’t fly in the face of any of Riche’s work, if that’s what you were referring to. It’s not contradictory at all. Why do you care if a 25 year old got his BA from Baldwin Wallace versus somewhere in Michigan or China?

    • Angie Schmitt

      I’m not disputing Richey’s (or really Jim Russell, he’s the one that has been making this point forever) work exactly. Any “brain gain” increases need to be understood within this larger context, however. And that isn’t how they’ve been presented, in the media anyway. It’s been very celebratory. Even if we’re doing better at attracting college educated people from outside the region — no dispute there — this is still a problem. Furthermore, as I said in the story, this is just one data point, not the end all be all. It does fly in the face of the idea that this problem is solved, is all. I don’t want to spend a bunch of time defending this study. It is what it is. It’s just a study, a relatively objective one that tells us something about how we perform on educational attainment.

      • OK. I doubt I disagree with you about any of the underlying issues here. I guess I’m just confused why you always present these thoughts as debunking something. My follow list is probably pretty narrow, but I really don’t see a lot of local “research” suggesting anything has been solved. At most, it suggests local leaders need to stop focusing so specifically on brain drain and look instead at the total workforce.

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