Quo Vadis?

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Ross Gittell in the New England Journal of Higher Education/Summer 2007 edition (“Demographic Demise”) neatly summarizes why the New England region should be concerned about future growth. The data on our inability to recruit and retain the 25-34 cohort is pretty dramatic.

Overall, New England’s population grew by only eight percent—far less than the national average of 18 percent. Yes, but we get quality and energetic, bright young workers, right? Wrong.

  • Even granting the ballooning of the baby boomer population, and therefore a seven percent decline in the 25-34 year old set nationwide, Gittell notes that “most alarming” is that the 25-34 set declined by about 25 percent in New England over the 15-year period. All NE states were in the bottom 10 nationwide—all had drops of 20 percent or more.
  • Contrast that to the Mountain, Northwest and Southeast states that grew by more than 10 percent. The top ten states actually grew—NV by 60, UT 45, AZ 31, ID 21, CO 17, GA 16, OR 12, NC 9, TX 8, and TN 2.

Gittell cites the 2003 Boston Chamber/Boston Consulting Group survey of more than 2,000 area college graduates, which found that half of them leave the area after receiving their degrees. Reasons for leaving were not strong ties to other areas, but rather:

  1. Quality of job opportunities
  2. Connections between employers and near graduates
  3. The cost of living – especially housing
  4. Experiences offered in the region and the palette of entertainment and socializing opportunities

As the baby boomers snake through the life cycle, will the boom we’ve enjoyed over the last 40 years be located elsewhere?

We are past the phase of serious thought. Time for action. Gittell focuses on reason #2, so see his recommendations on that. To address reason #1, and how to make Massachusetts more business friendly start with Pioneer’s Measuring Up? To address #3, start with Pioneer and Rappaport’s study from 2006. We have more coming on that this fall.

I like my job and I have a house, so #4 is what kills me. How about letting bars serve food till 2 a.m. and reduce the restrictions on outdoor dining? And how about making Downtown Crossing all that it can be? Can it be that hard?