There's a brain drain going on, and it's going to get "worse."
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission's latest projections of future population for the Lehigh Valley include data about the population growth as well as the migration data for the region. In its projection of population growth from 2015-2040, every cohort from 0 to 75+ has a net gain in our region, except 20-24 year olds.
The region’s economic development experts would love to stem the Brain Drain. Keep them here! Tap their knowledge base! Make the area more welcoming to young people and their interests!
I challenge that mindset and instead would suggest – LET THEM GO. What those 10,000 recent college grads want does not exist here. They want to live in close quarters with other young people. They want to walk into a bar or art gallery and not recognize a single face. They want to sit on the lawn and drink coffee and debate politics or throw the Frisbee around. They want to experience new cultures and walk or take public transportation home from where they drink. Kind of like… college…?
Let them have their brain drain. Let them experience life in the big city. Let them work for a big company with lots of other young people. Let them learn things they could never learn here. Let them “get it out of their system.” THEN, let them bring it back home. Let them make the conscious decision to return to the Lehigh Valley when they want to return, whatever the reason. To be near family. To be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. To start a business. To buy a house. Let them raise their own families here. Let them incorporate the experiences they had in Philadelphia, New York, LA, Austin, DC, and Pittsburgh, and bring them into their classrooms, their workplaces, their small businesses, their nonprofits, their neighborhoods.
Many young people want to spread their wings after college. I say, fly. Then fly again home to nest when you're ready. What do you think?