Policy Analysis: Brain Drain in The State of Michigan

April 2017
Bridget I. Granger

Michigan enrolls roughly 300,000 students in its fifteen public universities every year,1 but many of these students will never work or reside in Michigan after graduation. The state is currently experiencing a mass exodus of highly skilled young professionals and recent college graduates who are leaving Michigan in search of better employment opportunities and more attractive living conditions. This phenomenon, known as “human capital flight” or “brain drain,” is a serious threat to Michigan’s future. The demographic of young professionals and recent college graduates are vital to the state’s growth and economic recovery, not only because they provide unique perspectives and innovative ideas, but also because they will need to fill the impending talent void in Michigan’s workforce. Employers will likely experience a sharp demand for educated and qualified professionals as baby-boomers begin to approach retirement age.2 With an estimated 40%of recent college graduates fleeing Michigan,3 it will become increasingly difficult to bridge the growing talent gap. Furthermore, brain drain has proven to cause multi-faceted economic damage by hindering the functionality of important social services, and creating a static state of income distribution.4 It is thus in the best interest for local and state officials to reverse this alarming trend and increase the abysmal college-graduate retention rate. In order to accomplish this, Michigan must emphasize the place-based model of economic development, cultivate an environment conducive to entrepreneurship, and incentivize recent college graduates with efficient transportation services.