This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

September 5, 2007

Global and Domestic Brain Drains Revisited

On numerous occasions in 1999, 2004, and 2006, we have written about "brain drains", from individual cities as well as the entire country (the United States). Here is an update.

First domestically, smaller cities like Council Bluffs, Iowa and Lynchburg, Virginia continue to be challenged to hold their young people after graduation. The city leaders say, "We are a great place to raise a family, so sometimes we get back our graduates, when they are ready to settle down, but we want and need to have these young people after college as well. Even if we can get them to stay for a short time, they invariably leave for more 'exciting' environments."

Greensboro, North Carolina used to be challenged in the same way. Employers would complain that attracting young, single A-players to the town was almost impossible. Now, Greensboro is a different place. It now sports more theatres, more night clubs, more comedy clubs, a stadium, and an increasing number of better restaurants. It even has a green hotel (The Proximity) expected to open this fall. Greensboro embraced the fascinating research of Richard Florida in his book "The Rise of the Creative Class" to help them in their transition. Not surprisingly, it appears to be working.

From a global perspective, we have other challenges to address. In a study released very recently by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship in Kansas City, that as skilled immigrant workers return to their home countries because of the very limited availability of permanent US resident visas, the US could face a serious "reverse brain-drain".

Titled "Intellectual Property, the Immigration Backlog, and a Reverse Brain-Drain," this study is the third in a series focused on immigrants' contributions to the competitiveness of the U.S. economy. The departure of foreign-born innovators would be "detrimental to US economic well-being." The study found that foreign nationals living in the United States were inventors or co-inventors in 25.6 percent of international patent applications filed from the US in 2006, up from 7.6 percent in 1998.

The United States' loss will certainly mean gains for Asia and South America.


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