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Good reasons for moving out

While there is a great deal of churn in the population of younger, highly skilled workers emigrating to and from Massachusetts, the substantial net losses experienced in recent years can be fairly characterized as a ''brain drain."

A number of factors explain why so many of our most highly skilled workers and their families are moving out of Massachusetts:

The business cycle While Massachusetts has lost more domestic migrants than it gained in every year between 1990 and 2004, many more people were lost during the economically challenging period of the early 1990s and since 2001. During such difficult periods, residents leave in search of greener economic pastures elsewhere.

The life cycle People are generally more likely to relocate during particular periods of their life, especially in early adulthood and at retirement. While it is notoriously difficult to precisely track student migration, decennial census and US Department of Education data indicate that higher education clearly attracts college-age people to Massachusetts. But the Commonwealth is not enticing enough of these young adult emigres to stay, lay deep roots and make a life, get married, purchase a home, and raise a family in Massachusetts.

The cost of housing According to a poll conducted in late 2004 by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute in collaboration with the Citizens Housing and Planning Association, 46 percent of residents reported that they were ''seriously considering" leaving the state due to the high cost of housing. More than half of respondents who were Massachusetts residents between 18 and 34 years old cited housing costs as the reason they were seriously considering leaving the state.

The climate While many come to New England to peek at our leaves and to enjoy our scenic beaches, there is a clear national trend toward population growth in warmer weather regions of the nation. Between 1990 and 2002, Massachusetts sent more than 120,000 more residents to Florida, Georgia, and Arizona than it gained from these states. While this exodus clearly includes the elderly, it is largely labor force-related. According to the 2000 US Census, only 29 percent of outmigrants to Florida were over 65 years old.

Michael D. Goodman is director of economic and public policy research at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute and managing editor of MassBenchmarks, the quarterly journal of the Massachusetts economy produced by UMass in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Reprinted from the Sunday, October 23rd Boston Globe.

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