IssuesPA

October 1 2003

Can Pennsylvania keep and attract young people? IssuesPA looks at the numbers to see where young adults are going and what that means to Pennsylvania's future.

(October 2003) According to recent United States Census Bureau data, domestic migration patterns from 1995-2000 show Pennsylvania lost considerably more people aged 20-29 than it gained. A threat to Pennsylvania’s economic competitiveness in the 21st century? Yes, it is. IssuesPA took a hard look at this alarming trend.

The U.S. Census Bureau data appear to substantiate many concerns expressed by policymakers at the state and regional levels in recent years. To respond, policy-makers have advanced new initiatives aimed at stopping the "brain drain." Pennsylvania’s "Stay Invent the Future" program is a notable example.

Who’s coming? Who’s going?

Policymakers are advancing these initiatives because Pennsylvania is losing its educated young people to other states. Simply put, young talent is going elsewhere, as new U.S. Census Bureau data show. The table below compares Pennsylvania to other large and neighboring states. It calculates the number of 20-29 year-olds as a percentage of a state’s 2000 population, in that same age group, who moved to and from Pennsylvania sometime between 1995 and 2000. Also included - the percentage net change.

People Aged 20-29 Migrating To and From Selected States - 1995-2000

State

Percent of Age 20-29 Population in 2000 Migrating In

Percent of Age 20-29 Population in 2000Migrating Out

Net Percentage

Change

California

9.0%

10.3%

-1.3%

Florida  

16.8%

14.2%

2.5%

Georgia

20.9%

12.5%

  8.3% 

Illinois

11.7%

 14.3%

-2.5%

Maryland

20.4%

18.4%

  2.0%

Michigan

8.7%

11.8%

 -3.2%

New Jersey

11.4%

16.8%

-5.5%

New York

10.1%

15.3%

-5.1%

North Carolina

21.5%

 13.5%

7.9% 

Ohio

10.1%

12.8%

-2.7%

Pennsylvania

11.4%

16.0%

-4.5%

Texas

10.9%

9.7%

1.3%

Virginia

23.9%

19.7%

4.2%

12-state Average

14.6%

14.1%

0.5%

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census

The data paint a picture that’s less than rosy - 236,596 Pennsylvanians in their 20s moved to other states, and only 169,551 "twentysomethings" from other states moved to Pennsylvania. That’s a net loss of 67,045, representing 4.5% of Pennsylvania’s population aged 20-29 in 2000. The young are leaving Pennsylvania, and a relatively small number of their peers are moving into Pennsylvania. Further, the data show that Pennsylvania has a greater disparity from the 12-state average for in-migration than it does from the average out-migration. So the Commonwealth’s problem is not just too much brain drain - it’s also too little brain gain.

Pennsylvania isn’t the only state exhibiting these characteristics. The neighboring states of New York and New Jersey had even greater losses in this age group. Michigan, Illinois, and California also have experienced net losses, caused mainly by lower-than-average numbers of young adults moving into their states.

States with the biggest gains of "twentysomethings" are in the southeastern United States. These states exhibit significantly higher success rates at attracting the young. Even though they’ve also experienced some of the highest levels of young leaving their states, the net gain has been positive.

Time for a new youth movement in Pennsylvania?

So what does this mean for Pennsylvania? The long-term solutions are multi-faceted and will require time, effort, and thought. The state must find ways to keep young adults in the state and encourage others to move here, which means changing the economic and social conditions to attract young adults. Pennsylvania’s future depends on success.