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 19 • 4:00 PM

In Your Own Words: What It’s Like to Get Sued Over Past Debts

Some describe their surprise when they were sued after falling behind on medical and credit card bills.



September 19 • 1:26 PM

For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won’t change minds.


September 19 • 12:00 PM

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.


September 19 • 10:00 AM

Why the Poor Remain Poor

A follow-up to “How Being Poor Makes You Poor.”


September 19 • 9:03 AM

Why Science Won’t Defeat Ebola

While science will certainly help, winning the battle against Ebola is a social challenge.


September 19 • 8:00 AM

Burrito Treason in the Lone Star State

Did Meatless Mondays bring down Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples?


September 19 • 7:31 AM

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.


September 19 • 6:00 AM

The Most Untouchable Man in Sports

How the head of the governing body for the world’s most popular sport freely wields his wildly incompetent power.


September 19 • 4:00 AM

The Danger of Dining With an Overweight Companion

There’s a good chance you’ll eat more unhealthy food.



September 18 • 4:00 PM

Racial Disparity in Imprisonment Inspires White People to Be Even More Tough on Crime

White Americans are more comfortable with punitive and harsh policing and sentencing when they imagine that the people being policed and put in prison are black.



September 18 • 2:00 PM

The Wages of Millions Are Being Seized to Pay Past Debts

A new study provides the first-ever tally of how many employees lose up to a quarter of their paychecks over debts like unpaid credit card or medical bills and student loans.


September 18 • 12:00 PM

When Counterfeit and Contaminated Drugs Are Deadly

The cost and the crackdown, worldwide.


September 18 • 10:00 AM

How Do You Make a Living, Molly Crabapple?

Noah Davis talks to Molly Crapabble about Michelangelo, the Medicis, and the tension between making art and making money.


September 18 • 9:00 AM

Um, Why Are These Professors Creeping on My Facebook Page?

The ethics of student-teacher “intimacy”—on campus and on social media.


September 18 • 8:00 AM

Welcome to the Economy Economy

With the recent introduction of Apple Pay, the Silicon Valley giant is promising to remake how we interact with money. Could iCoin be next?



September 18 • 6:09 AM

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.


September 18 • 6:00 AM

Homeless on Purpose

The latest entry in a series of interviews about subculture in America.


September 18 • 4:00 AM

Why Original Artworks Move Us More Than Reproductions

Researchers present evidence that hand-created artworks convey an almost magical sense of the artist’s essence.


September 17 • 4:00 PM

Why Gun Control Groups Have Moved Away From an Assault Weapons Ban

A decade after the ban expired, gun control groups say that focusing on other policies will save more American lives.


September 17 • 2:00 PM

Can You Make Two People Like Each Other Just By Telling Them That They Should?

OKCupid manipulates user data in an attempt to find out.


September 17 • 12:00 PM

Understanding ISIL Messaging Through Behavioral Science

By generating propaganda that taps into individuals’ emotional and cognitive states, ISIL is better able motivate people to join their jihad.


Follow us


For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won't change minds.

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.

Do Conspiracy Theorists Feed on Unsuspecting Internet Trolls?

Not literally, but debunkers and satirists do fuel conspiracy theorists' appetites.

The Big One

One in three drivers in Brooklyn's Park Slope—at certain times of day—is just looking for parking. The same goes for drivers in Manhattan's SoHo. September/October 2014 new-big-one-3

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