Menus Subscribe Search
brain-drain

(ILLUSTRATION: EUGENP/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Talent Retention Subsidies

• May 02, 2013 • 3:29 PM

(ILLUSTRATION: EUGENP/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Why a proposal in Michigan to subsidize education for students who remain in-state after graduation won’t benefit anybody. It’s brain gain we should worry about, not brain drain.

Brain drain is a positive indicator. When an individual leaves her hometown, she benefits. The community did an excellent job educating its children. The best and brightest migrate. Michigan has decided to put a stop to all of this economic development:

Michigan is working to keep college graduates in the state, and new legislation seeks to slow the “brain drain” with an additional incentive: A tax credit for student loan payments.

“For me, it’s kind of a first step in talent retention,” said sponsoring state Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, “We have some of the best colleges and universities in the world, but people get educated here and then leave for Chicago or San Francisco or some place else. We need to keep them in Michigan, and we need to keep them in our cities.”

House Bill 4182, up for testimony this week before the newly-formed Michigan Competitiveness Committee, would provide a state income tax credit to residents making student loan payments after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from a Michigan university or college.

House Bill 4182 treads on well-worn policy turf. States, counties, and cities all hatch the same tired schemes when college graduation season kicks off. The anxiety about brain drain is ubiquitous. The solutions offered don’t work. Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, hasn’t done his homework.

What the bill does do is offer a tax break to recent college graduates burdened with student loans. That might inform a host of benefits. Talent retention isn’t likely one of them. Regardless, the subsidy is expensive. All the former students who would have stayed, law or no law, will cash in on the opportunity. Even if more people do stay, the return on investment will be lousy.

I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret. Michigan brain drain is a myth, a folktale. The state has a brain gain problem. No one wants to move to a Rust Belt hellhole. Ask Ann Arbor about its struggles to attract talent. Detroit has cast a pall over all of Michigan.

Schor should help out technology start-ups. Recent college graduates from any U.S. institution of higher learning who go to work for a small business would receive the student loan tax credit. What Michigan needs is a talent attraction subsidy, an incentive that works with the tendency of the young and college educated to relocate. Trying to root this demographic is both foolish and counterproductive.

Jim Russell
Jim Russell is a geographer studying the relationship between migration and economic development.

More From Jim Russell

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

September 2 • 4:00 PM

Professors’ Pet Peeves

Ten things to avoid in your classrooms this year.


September 2 • 2:00 PM

Music Lessons Enhance Brain Function in Disadvantaged Kids

Children from poor neighborhoods in Los Angeles who took regular music lessons for two years were able to distinguish similar speech sounds faster than their peers.


September 2 • 12:00 PM

California Passes a Bill to Protect Workers in the Rapidly Growing Temp Staffing Industry

The bill will hold companies accountable for labor abuses by temp agencies and subcontractors they use.


September 2 • 10:00 AM

SWAT Pranks and SWAT Mistakes

The proliferation of risky police raids over the decades.


September 2 • 9:12 AM

Conference Call: The Graphic Novel


September 2 • 8:00 AM

Why We’re Not Holding State Legislators Accountable

The way we vote means that the political fortunes of state legislators hinge on events outside of their state and their control.


September 2 • 7:00 AM

When Men Who Abstain From Premarital Sex Get Married

Young men who take abstinence pledges have trouble adjusting to sexual norms when they become husbands.


September 2 • 6:00 AM

The Rise of Biblical Counseling

For millions of Christians, biblical counselors have replaced psychologists. Some think it’s time to reverse course.


September 2 • 5:12 AM

No Innovation Without Migration

People bring their ideas with them when they move from place to place.


September 2 • 4:00 AM

Why Middle School Doesn’t Have to Suck

Some people suspect the troubles of middle school are a matter of age. Middle schoolers, they think, are simply too moody, pimply, and cliquish to be easily educable. But these five studies might convince you otherwise.


September 2 • 3:13 AM

Coming Soon: When Robots Lie


September 2 • 2:00 AM

Introducing the New Issue of ‘Pacific Standard’

The science of self-control, the rise of biblical counseling, why middle school doesn’t have to suck, and more in our September/October 2014 print issue.


September 1 • 1:00 PM

Television and Overeating: What We Watch Matters

New research finds fast-moving programming leads to mindless overeating.



September 1 • 6:00 AM

Why Someone Named Monty Iceman Sold Doogie Howser’s Estate

How unusual names, under certain circumstances, can lead to success.



August 29 • 4:00 PM

The Hidden Costs of Tobacco Debt

Even when taxpayers aren’t explicitly on the hook, tobacco bonds can cost states and local governments money. Here’s how.


August 29 • 2:00 PM

Why Don’t Men and Women Wear the Same Gender-Neutral Bathing Suits?

They used to in the 1920s.


August 29 • 11:48 AM

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.


August 29 • 10:00 AM

True Darwinism Is All About Chance

Though the rich sometimes forget, Darwin knew that nature frequently rolls the dice.


August 29 • 8:00 AM

Why Our Molecular Make-Up Can’t Explain Who We Are

Our genes only tell a portion of the story.


August 29 • 6:00 AM

Strange Situations: Attachment Theory and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

When college women leave home, does attachment behavior make them more vulnerable to campus rape?


August 29 • 4:00 AM

Forgive Your Philandering Partner—and Pay the Price

New research finds people who forgive an unfaithful romantic partner are considered weaker and less competent than those who ended the relationship.


August 28 • 4:00 PM

Some Natural-Looking Zoo Exhibits May Be Even Worse Than the Old Concrete Ones

They’re often designed for you, the paying visitor, and not the animals who have to inhabit them.


August 28 • 2:00 PM

What I Learned From Debating Science With Trolls

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but occasionally ignoring it can lead to rewards.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

When Men Who Abstain From Premarital Sex Get Married

Young men who take abstinence pledges have trouble adjusting to sexual norms when they become husbands.

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.

The Big One

One third of the United States federal budget for fighting wildfires goes toward one percent of such fires. September/October 2014 big-one-fires-final

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.