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:
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.
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).
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.