Immigration And Growth

The idea is being kicked around in some circles to create incentives to attract high skill immigrants to lower growth areas like the “rust belt”. One of the most common proposals is one to ease the H1B visa quotas to help attract highly educated tech workers into areas in which they are in short supply–such as the rust belt.

Central to the myth of the early industrial age is the idea that it was built on the mass “exploitation” of the poor and unskilled by a small elite of rich people. It’s pretty hard to make that case today, most especially in the old rust belt, which is a region with a both a surplus of low skilled workers and acute shortages of high skill tech workers. It’s pretty common to hear stories of large employers making decisions on where to base huge plants based on the availability of a small number of highly specialized people, many of whom are first generation immigrants. None of the statistical evidence shows that Pittsburgh has a problem retaining its current residents; it does however have a huge problem attracting or retaining new immigrants.

4 Comments so far

  1. Frank (unregistered) on December 17th, 2007 @ 11:37 am

    I’m not sure how the data is collected on Pittsburgh’s population growth and loss, but my guess is that it doesn’t take into account the coming and going of those attending one of the many universities in Pittsburgh.

    For example, let’s say that the in/out migration of people in Pittsburgh is generally flat (same number of people coming and going). If the stats are taken at a fixed time every year, or at several mixed intercals, and it counts those that are in school, what it’s saying is that essentially no one who comes to college in Pittsburgh is staying. We need to look at how to retain those students, and even if the rate of people staying is slowly increased, it’ll be huge statistically because that’s migration growth coming every year.


  2. John Morris (unregistered) on December 17th, 2007 @ 6:28 pm

    The city retains an amazingly small number of it’s international students most especially the top tech/science CMU students. I think that is starting to change and a higher number of kids really want to stay. I think Google said thats why they were opening a big office her- they were getting a lot of feedback from that people wanted to stay.

    What’s disturbing is that this doesn’t seem to be seen as a big problem for the city. All the evidence points to the problem being lack of immigration.

    One core reason for the lack of students staying is how badly they are treated here. A very large number don’t have cars while they are here and the transit system stinks. The result is that a very serious workaholic student can be far too busy to ever see or participate in the life of the city.


  3. Alik Widge (unregistered) on December 19th, 2007 @ 7:05 am

    I have to disagree that Pittsburgh treats students badly. I’ve been a student here for eight years, and I find that this city is very student-friendly. There’s good housing options (as long as you leave SOuth Oakland), there’s good bus service to the neighborhoods students use the most (except the SouthSide), and everything is extremely affordable, especially student tickets to events.

    The real issue, at least according to data collected by the Mayor’s office, is jobs. We’ve got a few startups going, and the Google office is a plus, but the fact of the matter is that there simply aren’t as many high-skill jobs (and network opportunities) here in Pittsburgh as there are elsewhere. Moreover, the jobs that *do* exist often require some substantial connection to the social network, which a newly-minted graduate doesn’t have.

    Cost of living is higher elsewhere as well, but many people choose to accept that in order to get a chance at long-term career advancement. I’m considering it, and I love this town.


  4. John Morris (unregistered) on December 19th, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

    I am not an expert on the housing options, except to say that a lot of students I meet complain about them. There is also also a lot of pretty obvious student slum housing. As for transit options- they are pretty wack. Have you tried to go from Oakland to Lawrenceville or the North Side by bus? And even these options don’t work at night or on the weekend.

    The result of this is that the city develops very few of the organic synergies that should be going on between the city and it’s schools. Jane Jacobs, I think named an obvious partial solution to this problem when she recomended placing more college assets in and around the downtown. CMU’s art and music departments for example might be a nice fit near the cultural district. Pitt and Duquesne’s Law and business departments might also be a good fit with the downtown business district and relocating those departments could help create more demand for downtown housing.

    The logical reason that existed for “the Acropolis” of Oakland which was seperating students from the grim industrial polution of the mills no longer exists but the shools have never adapted to the change.



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