Oct 4, 2022 - News

Iowa's brain drain continues to cost state college educated adults

Net migration of college students after graduation
Data: National Bureau of Economic Research; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Iowa is one of the worst states at retaining its new college graduates, according to a new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Why it matters: The state spends millions of dollars funding Iowa's public universities with the hope of training and educating new graduates to fuel the workforce.

Driving the news: 34% more of Iowa's college-educated workforce leaves the state after graduation than stays, according to the report.

  • Iowa's "brain drain" is worse than our six neighboring states and ranks 10th worst in the U.S., according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

Where they're going: Local graduates are leaving for states with larger urban centers, including Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado and California.

Between the lines: Iowa is great at educating young adults. Four-year public university graduation rates are at 54% — significantly higher than the nation's average of 41%, according to The Gazette.

Yes, but: Local economists have long criticized the availability of jobs outside of agriculture and manufacturing industries, especially in the state's rural sectors.

  • While Iowa is able to attract lower-skilled workers to jobs like food processing, opportunities are scarcer for workers seeking mid-range STEM jobs outside of the metro, Iowa Capital Dispatch previously reported.

The intrigue: Among professionals most likely to stay put are those working in education, health care, agriculture and business.

  • Grads are more migratory if they studied religion, culinary arts, engineering and journalism.

The big picture: Most states are experiencing an exodus of skilled workers as they seek out more job opportunities in bigger cities like Austin, Texas; Minneapolis; Chicago or New York.


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