26.5.13

THE PRICE OF SUCCESS.

A Michigan expatriate reflects on the inevitability of his state's most promising young people working in Chicago.
The North Side of Chicago is such a refuge for young economic migrants from my home state that its nickname is “Michago.” In 2000, a quarter of Michigan State University graduates left the state. By 2010, half were leaving, and the city with the most recent graduates was not East Lansing or Detroit but Chicago. Michigan’s universities once educated auto executives, engineers, and governors. Now their main purpose is giving Michigan’s brightest young people the credentials they need to get the hell out of the state.

In the 2000s, Michigan dropped from 30th to 35th in percentage of college graduates. Chicago is the drain into which the brains of the Middle West disappear. Moving there is not even an aspiration for ambitious Michiganders. It’s the accepted endpoint of one’s educational progression: grade school, middle school, high school, college, Chicago. Once, in a Lansing bookstore, I heard a clerk say with a sigh, “We’re all going to end up in Chicago.” An Iowa governor once traveled to Chicago just to beg his state’s young people to come home.
We've looked at this phenomenon before.  The export of human capital is not necessarily a bad thing.  One passage in the article, though, suggests something about the human cost of the traditional corporate contract.
As [the notorious high-rise public housing at] Cabrini-Green was dismantled to make way for the outriders of the bourgeois white invasion, an old black man made an astute observation on how his new neighbors’ pursuit of professional achievement had isolated them personally. “I’ve never seen so many dogs,” he said.
More stressed, and the presence of a Michigan State themed bar in the shadow of DePaul, or the chance to watch Iowa or Nebraska or Wisconsin at Soldier Field at what is notionally a Northern Illinois home game may be scant compensation.

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