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Brain Drain Not as Bad in South Dakota as Many Adjoining States; Minnesota Still Regional Champ at Drawing and Keeping University Graduates

Exacerbating South Dakota’s workforce shortage is our perennial brain drain. Kylie Carlson and Stu Whitney report that we lose about 47% of all public university graduates and 30% of the South Dakota-resident grads within one year after their graduation.

The Washington Post’s Department of Data reports that South Dakota is far from alone in grappling with brain drain. According to several economists’ analysis, only nine states and the District of Columbia have more university grads than they produce from their own universities. Minnesota is one of those brain gainers, with 7.8% more university graduates than come from its snowy institutions:

Johnathon Conzelman, Steven Hemelt, Brad Hershbein, Shawn martin, Andrew Simon, and Kevin Stange, analysis of brain drain by state, in Andrew Van Dam, "The Movies Most Often Assigned in College, and More!" Washington Post, 2022.09.09.
Johnathon Conzelman, Steven Hemelt, Brad Hershbein, Shawn Martin, Andrew Simon, and Kevin Stange, analysis of brain drain by state, in Andrew Van Dam, “The Movies Most Often Assigned in College, and More!” Washington Post, 2022.09.09.

South Dakota’s brain drain is only the 12th worst in the United States. Minnesota is the only adjoining drawing more university graduates than it produces. Wyoming is the most drained of our neighbors, with 40.4% fewer graduates living in state than graduate from its institutions.

Johnathon Conzelman, Steven Hemelt, Brad Hershbein, Shawn martin, Andrew Simon, and Kevin Stange, analysis of brain drain by state, in Andrew Van Dam, "The Movies Most Often Assigned in College, and More!" Washington Post, 2022.09.09.
Johnathon Conzelman, Steven Hemelt, Brad Hershbein, Shawn Martin, Andrew Simon, and Kevin Stange, analysis of brain drain by state, in Andrew Van Dam, “The Movies Most Often Assigned in College, and More!” Washington Post, 2022.09.09.

Not surprisingly, South Dakota loses the biggest chunk of its graduates to Minnesota. So does North Dakota, where more than a quarter of local university grads run for sun rising across the Red River. Minnesota’s biggest brain drain is to Wisconsin, and Wisconsin’s biggest brain drain is to Minnesota. California and New York similarly reciprocate, although their brain drain is unusual, as they are the only two states whose primary brain-drain destination is on the opposite coast. The states that most often appear as top destinations for states’ graduates are California (10 states!) New York (9),  Illinois (5), Massachusetts (4), and Texas (4).

Conzelman et al., in Van Dam, 2022.09.09.
Conzelman et al., in Van Dam, 2022.09.09.

A state can’t expect to keep every graduate for a lifetime—people do move, and seeing more of the world isn’t necessarily bad for Americans. But states need to welcome and respect diverse graduates with diverse knowledge so that they are less likely to even think about leaving. States also need to offer diverse opportunities so that, even when talented people find good opportunities that suit their needs and interests elsewhere, the states can appeal to the widest possible segment of mobile talent that might come back their way.

6 Comments

  1. Edwin Arndt 2022-09-09

    Just wondering, how many of those graduates that go to Minnesota
    lived there in the first place, I mean, did they simply go home after graduation?

  2. Richard Schriever 2022-09-09

    I took my SD BA to California, and my California PhD to SD. But I work out of a MN/SD/CO/UT/TX business.

  3. grudznick 2022-09-09

    Chicago has some fine universities bu nobody graduated from there would move to Minnesota. Even though they have fine cafes and diners.

  4. larry kurtz 2022-09-09

    Why would somebody from Chicago attend Yale and Harvard, marry a girl from Vale, South Dakota then live in a red flyover state?

  5. larry kurtz 2022-09-09

    grud is Don Frankenfeld and if Cory had any balls he would expose the charade but money talks and grudznick pads this blog.

  6. Joe 2022-09-13

    Geography and economics matter.

    DC is a magnet for young college graduates from all over, but especially from within, say a 300-mile catchment area. That probably explains the “drain” from VA, MD (which both have healthy white collar economies), WV (which does not, but does have a huge well-regarded public university) etc.

    WA and CO have underdeveloped higher ed ecosystems relative to the size of their present-day economies. Vermont has great universities but a small and shrinking economic base (sort of a blue state version of WV).

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