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Charles McElwee: What the brain drain is costing us

“Losing Our Minds: Brain Drain across the United States” is the title of a publication of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee released to the public on April 24.

In its executive summary, the committee reports that “[o]ver the past 50 years, the United States has experienced major shifts in geographic mobility patterns among its highly-educated citizens (between the ages of 31 and 40). Some states today are keeping and received a greater share of these adults than they used to, while many others are both hemorrhaging their home grown talent and failing to attract out-of-staters who are highly educated. This phenomenon has far-reaching implications for our collective social and political, extending beyond the economic problems for states that lose highly-educated adults.”

According to the summary, “the southeastern states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, as well as Delaware, fare the worst among the states both in terms of retaining and attracting highly-educated adults.”

The publication reports that “highly educated adults flowing to dynamic states with major metropolitan areas are, to a significant extent, leaving behind more rural and post-industrial states.”

The April 24 congressional committee report admonishes states that, if they “fail to retain the most-skilled of those born within their borders — or ... fail to replace them by attracting the most skilled born in other states — [they] are at risk of economic stagnation.”

“Brain Drain: What States Stand to Lose” is the title of an article in the June 12 edition of U.S. News & World Report. The article leads off with the statement that “West Virginia suffers from it [as] do Oklahoma, the Dakotas, the Deep South and the post-industrial states of the Mid-Atlantic. It’s brain drain ...”

A March edition of The Wall Street Journal has a three-page feature article contrasting the booming economies of Midland and Odessa, in West Texas, and the depressed economy of Charleston, West Virginia, attributable to the city being “a victim of the state’s demographics and rural characteristics.”

West Virginia is listed as having 13 specified negative attributes, two of them being a lack of thriving metro areas “that are key to prospering in today’s economy,” and departures from the state of young people seeking “greater opportunities and better pay” elsewhere.

A 2018 study from the Brookings Institute discloses that West Virginia is second only to Maine in having the lowest share of millennials (ages ranging from about 22 to 38) in its population in the United States, 20.8 percent.

A Quartz publication in Feb. 2018 titled “The most and least millennial places in America” states that “[w]here [millennials] live and which places attract them don’t just reflect a generation’s desires. They also signal where the economy will grow.”

More and more economists are recognizing a fourth sector of an economy, the quaternary/knowledge sector, that is said to be the intellectual aspect of an economy.

In the 10th anniversary of his book, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” Richard Florida, an American urban-studies theorist, prefers the term “The Creative Economy” as a sector of an economy, rather than the “knowledge sector.”

Florida advocates that “human creativity [is] the defining feature of economic life” [in that] [c]reativity has come to be valued — and systems have evolved to encourage and harness it — because it is increasingly recognized as the font from which new technologies, new industries, new wealth and all other good economic things flow.”

According to Florida, the development of a “creative economy” is causing, and will cause, the “sorting of people” into what the author calls “The Creative Class.” That new geography of the location of the “creative class” will, according to Florida, “have a direct connection to a place’s economic prospects.” He represents that “[r]egions with greater concentrations of the Creative Class [are] more likely to be economic winners. Those,” he says, “with larger Working Class concentrations [will become] economically stagnant; some [will be] in the midst of grim downward spirals.”

West Virginia is ill-suited to compete in a creative economy because of the state’s prolonged brain drain; its native, educated millennials leaving, with no off-setting in-migration; and the state’s antiquated public school system, especially its factory model of learning and teaching that focuses on preparing students to perform routine tasks designed to suit the dawn of the industrial age.

West Virginia also has no large thriving, metropolitan area, has the least-educated population of any state in the nation and the state’s median age (about 42 years) is more than four years higher than the nation as a whole and ranks it second-highest among all 50 states. The state’s poor overall health ranks it 47th in the nation, and there are many out-of-state negative, published perceptions of West Virginia.

These multiple negative factors and others inhibit the growth of an economy in West Virginia based on human creativity, the new fourth sector of an economy.

Charles McElwee is a lawyer

with the Charleston firm

Robinson & McElwee PLLC.

Funerals for Friday, September 20, 2019

Barton, Richard - 3 p.m., Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery, Dunbar.

Birthisel, Avis - 11 a.m., Casdorph & Curry Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Call, Denver - Noon, Allen Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Dearien, Tommie - Noon, Stevens & Grass Funeral Home, Malden.

Fletcher, Joanna - 1 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Keeney, Steven - 2 p.m., Keith Full Gospel Church, Keith.

May, Rosa - 2 p.m., Bartlett - Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Morris, Linda - 1 p.m., Deal Funeral Home, Point Pleasant.

Parsons, Harry - 11 a.m., Ellyson Mortuary Inc., Glenville.

Pauley, Clarence - 10 a.m., Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Pino, Patricia - 11 a.m., Bradley FreeWill Baptist Church.

Rogers, Marilyn - 11 a.m., Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, South Charleston.

Satterfield, Kenneth - 5 p.m., Satterfield residence, 1161 Daniels Run Road, Millstone.