This has real economic consequences August 7, 2022 by Robert Huntington Massachusetts education officials sound alarm over college enrollment plunge New data show the number of Massachusetts high school graduates has plunged 10 percentage points in the past five years. www.wgbh.org
It’s more complex than that, as there are three different parts. One is what happens to children raised in Mass. That’s socially important but not so important economically. One is the enrollment in higher education in Mass. That is determined more by national trends than local children. But since higher education is a big part of the Mass. economy, it’s an economic matter. The third is the supply of well-educated workers. But there again, we can and do import workers, so it is the national supply that matters, not the local supply.
True enough but only insofar as labor is freely mobile across state line (and international borders since we also import labor from abroad, especially highly educated labor). It costs money to move to Massachusetts. And you have to persuade them to put up with our winters and our potholes, and you have to teach them that corn syrup masquerading as maple syrup is an abomination (as is the mixing of clams and tomatoes). All in all, we’re better off with our own domestic supply of educated workers.
I think the reality is that there is a great deal of mobility for people in the college-educated class. I can only think of two people I know of who’ve grown up, gone to college, and work in Massachusetts. There’s great mobility when people choose colleges these days, a lot more than there used to be, with the result that colleges are stratified by educational ability much more than they used to be. It is expensive to settle in Mass., but that price isn’t reduced much if you grew up here. Certainly, it’s not hard to get H-1Bs to settle in metro Boston, whatever the cost is.
Really? Of the top of my head, I can think of at least a dozen people I know who grew up, went to college, and remained in Massachusetts. That’s probably a result of growing up here since almost all of them are high school classmates who are still in the area.
It might be some sort of selection bias — the percentage of people who grow up in Mass. that stay there may be much higher than the percentage of people working in Mass. who grew up here. Then again, since the population of the state is nearly constant, people who don’t get a college degree get priced out, so both of those percentages are going to depend on the social class of the people you start with.
Perhaps but I know a few people from high school who didn’t go to college and are still in Mass.
I don’t want to argue that the problems the article is talking about don’t exist. But there are two aspects of the situation that it seems to be entirely overlooking:
One is that the state is somehow a closed system in regard to workers, and that the state’s economy can’t get educated workers if it doesn’t educate them itself. Indeed, the great trend of the modern world is increasing mobility, especially of the well-educated. An extreme example is Italy, which now has the oldest population in Europe. People write about it as a problem, but overlook that a major cause is that young people can emigrate to other parts of Europe where the job prospects are better. Conversely, Mass. seems to be one of the best places in the country for the well-educated to get jobs.
A deeper one is that students seem to be deciding whether to go to college on a fairly rational basis: What will it cost? What will it gain me? The economists (and the article) note that the wage improvement young men get from going to college is relatively small. (This seems to be particularly true for the marginal students.) And this seems to be because they can get relatively well paid without a degree (as opposed to there being a depression in the wages they can get with a degree). In contrast, the college wage premium for women seems to continue to be robust, and not surprisingly girls go to college at a considerably higher rate than boys (in contrast to past generations). Anything that considers college-going among boys to need improvement needs to explore those forces.