Perspectives on Rural Brain Drain

Amber Waves, a useful publication from the USDA’s Economic Research Service, typically includes summaries of interesting research related to rural development and rural sociology.  The latest issue included an intriguing research summary related to rural brain drain.  It summarized a recent article from the Journal of Rural and Community Development.  The study, from researchers at the University of Montana, reported on surveys of return migrants who moved their families and their careers back to small towns.

Many of the findings won’t come as a surprise to those who work in rural America.  Most return migrants come home for family/lifestyle reasons, and most are not working in agriculture anymore.  Not surprisingly, finding good jobs and decent wages is their No. 1 concern.   The article reviews various employment choices facing migrants, with large portions opting for self-employment.  Many returnees also gravitate to jobs in the public sector or in service-related businesses.

The authors note that actual employment options are often better than the pessimistic views expressed by many who forego returning to their hometowns.  They recommend that rural communities focus on publicizing local job opportunities to former residents and also share information on options for self-employment or new business starts.   If these concerns over employment options can be lessened, the ability to attract return migrants will be greatly improved.


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