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The Geography of Brain Drain in America

Across the United States, there are fewer states gaining brainpower than draining it, according to a new report from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee.
Graduating seniors line up to receive their diplomas during commencement at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in 2017.
Graduating seniors line up to receive their diplomas during commencement at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in 2017.Brian Snyder/Reuters

Perhaps the biggest problem afflicting America is its widening geographic divide between the winners and losers of the knowledge economy. A raft of studies has documented the growing divergence between places based on their ability to attract, retain, and cluster highly educated and skilled workers and to develop high-tech startup companies.

Talented and skilled Americans are the most likely to move by far. While the overall rate of mobility among Americans has declined over the past decade or so, still, between one-quarter and one-third of U.S. adults have moved within the previous five years, a higher rate of mobility than just about any other country on the globe. But behind this lies a tale of two migrations: the skilled and educated “mobile” on the one hand and the less educated “stuck” on the other.