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Congressional study finds Illinois is a regional brainiac hub

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* One Illinois

Reports of “brain drain” in Illinois are greatly exaggerated, according to a new congressional study.

The study, “Losing Our Minds: Brain Drain Across the United States,” from the Joint Economic Committee in Congress, finds that Illinois is outpacing other “Rust Belt” states in attracting top student talent, especially in the 2000s and over the last decade. […]

The study arrives at a “gross brain drain” by comparing the percentage of thirtysomethings who had been in the top third of students and left the state to those who remained in state. For 2017, all states saw more who left than stayed — reflecting a certain restlessness in the population — but the 8.3 difference in percentages in Illinois compared favorably to New York (7.9) and Texas (8.8), while lagging behind California (2.3), which ranked second in lowest “brain drain” behind only Wyoming (a 0.1 percent difference). Neighboring and similar states Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylania all registered differences of more than 15 percent by comparison.

As the study put it: “Americans are a highly mobile people. Roughly a quarter to a third of adults in the United States have moved within the previous five years. While moving rates have declined in the U.S. over the last few decades, they are still higher than in nearly every other country in the world.”

The study also determined a “net’“ figure comparing the percentage of top students who left the state by their 30s against those in their 30s who moved into the state, and in 2017 Illinois proved to be one of the top states, with a 10.4 percentage point difference favoring “entrants.” That trailed only California, Massachusetts, and New York. Meanwhile, every Midwestern state but Minneapolis saw declines, with many of those states suffering double-digit losses by percentage points.

* From the study, here are the five states with the worst “Relative Net Brain Drain” and the best (defined as “the difference between the share of leavers who are highly educated and the share of entrants who are highly educated”)

West Virginia 19.8
Mississippi 17.5
Oklahoma 16.9
Delaware 16.1
North Dakota 15.1


Maryland -9.8
Illinois -12.5
California -16.8
New York -21.8
Massachusetts -21.9

* We are the only “Rust Belt” state (aside from Minnesota) that’s attracting brainy talent

Our research finds that states that are doing the best—low gross brain drain and net brain gain—generally cluster along the Boston-Washington corridor and on the West Coast: Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California, Oregon, and Washington. Other brain gain states are regional hubs—Hawaii, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Illinois. … For the most part, these states are home to what Richard Florida would describe as “winner-take-all cities.” […]

Most Rust Belt states—Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri—have done poorly on these measures in both 1970 and 2017. Perhaps unsurprisingly, states that defy these regional trends (for example, Illinois in the Rust Belt, and Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia in the Southeast) seem to be attracting highly-educated out-of-staters to their dynamic metropolitan hubs.

Chicago is key.

* Illinois is the most popular destination for “Highly-Educated Leavers” in Iowa, Missouri, Michigan and Indiana. We’re the second most popular destination for brainiacs in Wisconsin and fourth most popular for smart Ohio residents. Illinois is what’s known as a popular “regional hub”

Overall, dynamic states along the Boston-Washington corridor (Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland), on the West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington), and in other parts of the country (Illinois, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and Hawaii) are the best at retaining and attracting highly-educated adults.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - DuPage - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 1:38 pm:

    Think of how we would have done even better if Rauner had not caused so many Illinois college students to go out of state.

  2. - The 11th Hour - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 1:41 pm:

    Well, look on the bright side West Virginia, when Effinghamia becomes a state I’m betting you’ll be only the second stupidest in the nation.

  3. - 47th Ward - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 1:42 pm:

    ===Chicago is key.===

    You mis-spelled Xenia.

  4. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 1:45 pm:

    Corporations love Chicago in part because of our educated workforce, which is a reason why we perennially come in first place for real estate deals/relocations.

    This is one reason why many of us don’t want to be like the neighboring states right wingers want us to be—dumb enough to swallow that anti-unionism and low taxes for the wealthy bring prosperity.

  5. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 1:49 pm:

    Any look around the Greater Loop and North Side on college football Saturdays would confirm that, with all the bars flying flags to be the “official” college team bar.

    This should be a informative to those who claim that today’s communications means you can work remotely and make your fortune anywhere.

    Turns out the whiz kids like to hang out with each other and work close to home.

  6. - A Jack - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 1:50 pm:

    But Effingham wants to dumb us down….

  7. - Roman - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 1:58 pm:

    Not a surprise to anyone who lives and works in downtown Chicago and doesn’t easily fall for Tronc talking points.

    Illinois (thanks to Chicago) is gaining young, smart professionals. We are losing poor and working class citizens and affluent retirees. When it comes to head count, it’s essentially a wash. Our population is slipping because foreign immigration is down.

  8. - Iggy - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:07 pm:

    Grandson of a man,

    How many highly educated workers have jobs that are in a union? what a bizarre equivalency you have sputtered out.

  9. - PublicServant - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:10 pm:

    Brainiacs AND Mathletes, yes…and then there’s the Eastern bloc. Very diverse state, Illinois.

  10. - Dotnonymous - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:10 pm:

    Chicago is key…You meant Decatur…dintcha?

  11. - Just Saying - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:11 pm:

    Why are people bad mouthing Effingham?

  12. - Lt Guv - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:14 pm:

    == Why are people bad mouthing Effingham? ==

    Eastern Bloc.

    At least Hurricane Kristen won’t let facts get in the way of her next storm.

  13. - City Zen - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:19 pm:

    == what a bizarre equivalency you have sputtered out==

    You’re just noticing that now?

  14. - IllinoisBoi - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:22 pm:

    You mean — high-quality education leads to a more dynamic economy and higher-paying jobs? No way.

  15. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:26 pm:

    Do the folks in the Eastern Bloc know how to read? This might be one to put in front of their faces and force on them. Chicago is the economic engine of Illinois. Without Chicago, we’d be Arkansas…maybe.

  16. - lake county democrat - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:31 pm:

    I was just in Minneapolis for the first time in decades and was super-impressed - definitely Chicago’s biggest Midwest competition.

  17. - lakeside - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:32 pm:

    Sorry, I’ve been told Chicago is a cesspool and we need to build a wall around it, so that’s what we’re gonna do.

  18. - Honeybear - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:34 pm:

    -How many highly educated workers have jobs that are in a union?-
    I’d say 60% of the caseworkers in my office have a masters degree. All but a couple have Bachelors degrees.

  19. - City Guy - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:39 pm:

    If you go back to the original source document there is an interesting discussion on how there is also a corresponding pattern of people sorting themselves out politically. The urban areas are becoming more solidly liberal and rural areas more solidly conservative.

  20. - Been There - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:42 pm:

    I have been saying this for years. 4 of f my kids went to school in Ohio were 80 percent of the students were from
    The midwesr or Pennsylvania. They have always said a huge number of their friends who were planning on finding jobs in Chicago.

  21. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:49 pm:

    “How many highly educated workers have jobs that are in a union?”

    Lots of them, like teachers, for example. It’s also voters who value unions and know that trickle-down economics and anti-unionism are bunk.

  22. - Actual Red - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:50 pm:

    Grandson is saying that highly educated younger voters also tend to prefer more social democratic policies that favor unions, progressive taxation, and robust services, not that they are necessarily in unions themselves.

  23. - 62656 - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 2:59 pm:

    It’s noteworthy that U.S. Senator Mike Lee R-UT published this & I haven’t found partisan spin in it.

    The paragraph City Guy cites: “The clustering of the highly-educated into major metropolitan areas is part of what some researchers argue is a larger geographical division by self-selection that has been taking place in the United States. In his 2008 book, The Big Sort, Bill Bishop makes the case that Americans are increasingly dividing themselves into communities of like-minded individuals. This has exacerbated political divisions. A greater share of the highly-educated tend to hold liberal political views, compared to those with less than a college education. Those living in urban areas are also more likely to hold liberal political views, whereas those living in rural areas are commonly conservative. America’s major metropolitan areas tend to vote Democratic, while most other areas of the country vote Republican. Bishop and Florida, along with other researchers, show that an increasing portion of the U.S. population lives in solidly Democratic or Republican counties.”

    Finally, I don’t like bashing whole towns. The better handling is acknowledging there will always be differences in what politics is popular from place to place with many places presently being won by different parties in future generations becoming won by the same party & vice versa and which party is presently winning from place to place being irrelevant to where political lines belong.

  24. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 6:23 pm:

    ==How many highly educated workers have jobs that are in a union? what a bizarre equivalency you have sputtered out.==

    Wow, if you want to talk bizarre, that’s a bizarre question right there.

  25. - Proud Papa Bear - Monday, Apr 29, 19 @ 7:50 pm:

    Q: “How many highly educated workers have jobs that are in a union?“
    A: Every single one of my faculty colleagues.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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