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Brain drain, the out-migration of young, college- educated workers from the nation’s rural areas, poses a serious threat to the social and economic vitality of rural America. Anecdotal accounts from the Midwest to Maine describe an exodus of young college graduates, lured away by big-city living and better-paying jobs. Yet, nationwide the number of college graduates has steadily increased over the past few decades. In fact, between 1970 and 2000, the share of the population over age 25 with a college education rose in every U.S. county but five. The rising level of human capital, reflected in the increased share of the U.S. population with a college education, is an important trend. Recent studies have shown that capital and skilled labor are complements, so as advances in technology reduce the cost of capital, the demand for skilled workers increases. Other research suggests that the clustering of college-educated workers may have spillover effects, enhancing a region’s productivity and the potential for economic growth. The trend has also implications for income inequality, because the wage gap between those with a college degree and those without is widening. Is brain drain a reality? Are some parts of the country able to retain and attract college-educated workers at the expense of other regions? If so, how pervasive is the problem and what does it mean for rural areas?


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Community-Based Research | Demography, Population, and Ecology | Rural Sociology


This is an article from CHOICES (2003): 11. Posted with permission.


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Rural Area Brain Drain: Is It a Reality?