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Correction: The demographer switched Richmond and Rochester. The correction came out after I published this piece. A reddit user alerted me to the issue today. The accurate Rochester numbers show we rank 36th of 51 metros. We had an 11 percent increase in people with bachelors degrees and higher between 2007 and 2012. This doesn’t refute the article’s conclusions, but it does temper them. 12/20/2015


What brain drain?

Demographer Wendell Cox crunched census data for 51 metropolitan areas with populations of more than 1 million. He looked at the growth of people with bachelors degrees and higher between 2007 and 2012. All of the metros saw gains.

Rochester ranked 15th of 51 metros for percentage increase of educated people. In 2007, we had 244,277 people with degrees. In 2012, we had 280,650, a 13 percent increase. We were ahead of tech hubs Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle.

What’s happening? Rochester has always had a high rate of degrees per capita. But that doesn’t explain why we gained 36,373 college-educated people. The economy is not great. More people are still moving out of Rochester than moving in.

Credit: City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester

Here are a couple things that could explain it. Brookings found young adult employment in Rochester didn’t fall as much as other parts of the country during the recession, a sign there’s not a huge brain drain. Growing sectors of our economy continue to be health care and education, fields requiring college. We’ve been told there are 23,000 unfilled jobs in the region. Perhaps college graduates with the right skill set are not finding it hard to get jobs. It’s also possible many college graduates are underemployed.

Maybe the answer is simpler: Rochester is a nice, affordable place to live.


Rochester v. Buffalo


Meanwhile, a headline in the Buffalo News touted the growth in the Millennial population and a reverse of the brain drain. Rochester is doing better. Buffalo ranked 35th in the growth of college educated residents between 2007 and 2012 –  10.3 percent or 23,811 people. Also, Buffalo saw 10.1 percent growth of people aged 20 to 34 between 2006 and 2012. Rochester saw 11.8 percent growth. 

Let’s hope both cities continue the momentum.


Links of the Day:


– Monroe County and Frank Sterling, who spent nearly 20 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, is poised to get a $7 million settlement from Monroe County.

– Reinventing schools can go terribly wrong, as this observer of one such undertaking in Rochester discovered.

– Could a basic guaranteed income ever come to the United States? There are people on the right and left who support it, but would go about implementing it in different ways. PBS News Hour did a fascinating “what-if” story on this topic.

Delta Sonic wants the Clover Lanes property.

– “Zombie Residency,” Tree Climbing,” and “Meaning of Life.” Weird SUNY courses.


Tweet of the Day:


8 Responses to What Brain Drain?

  1. April 8, 2014 at 10:39 pm Elmer, the downtown worker responds:

    While I’m at the opposite end of the demographic (in my 50s), I know quite a few young people with BA degrees and/or liberal arts degrees who are currently working in retail. On the other hand, my employer is having some difficulty finding local people for entry-level STEM positions that require a BA/BS or MA/MS degree. We have to recruit outside the area for them, and these “outsiders” are invariably impressed with what our area has to offer. Maybe familiarity breeds contempt among our local STEM grads?

  2. April 8, 2014 at 10:50 pm Eduardo Ricardo responds:

    There should be a Frank Sterling Day in Rochester, after all the man has been put through.

    He should be awarded SEVENTY million!

  3. April 8, 2014 at 10:54 pm Eduardo Ricardo responds:

    And please don’t get me started to what happened to poor Doug Warney.

  4. April 8, 2014 at 11:28 pm Eduardo Ricardo responds:

    Poverty is not being addressed properly in Rochester. As far as I see it, the “other” Rochester simply has no clue as to whats going on, and too, ignores the real problems.

    Just like the new ny does.

    As if they are in their own world. Unaware. Uninterested. Which I find, unbelievable.

  5. April 9, 2014 at 4:49 pm Soon-to-be returnee responds:

    My wife and I are 20-somethings and we are moving back to Rochester from a major metropolitan area because we both found jobs in our field that are better-paying than the much bigger city we live in now (surprising, I know!).

    It was a no-brainer (excuse the pun) to come back once the employment factor wasn’t an issue anymore.

  6. The comparison of baccalaureates between 2007 and 2012 via Cox and Kotkin cannot alone tell us whether we have brain drain.

    The straightforward comparison of aggregate demography, when visualized in this log-log scale in Google Fusion Tables, between 2007 and 2012, reveals Rochester (244277, 280650) falls neither above nor below the regressed line of all the cities.

    A better indicator for brain drain would sample cross-migration across the entire nation, gather baccalaureate data and ask why people moved.

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