Phoenix Has Brain Gain

Posted on July 26, 2005
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On July 13, blogger Greg Patterson remarked that Arizona Republic business page columnist Jon Talton's articles have a running theme: "Phoenix is a wasteland without true leadership, light rail or biotech, but Denver and San Diego are totally cool because there are plenty of grunge opportunities for the creative people and by the way, don't go to Wal-Mart because your job will be shipped to China."

As if on cue, Talton wrote the following compare and contrast on San Diego and Phoenix July 21:

"Downtown (San Diego) is thriving. The light-rail system recently opened a new line to San Diego State University Phoenix is adding population faster than San Diego, to be sure. But San Diego is attracting more of the people who add the most economic value in the global economy."

Mr. Talton is right about one thing: Phoenix is growing much faster than San Diego. In 2004, the Goldwater Institute study The Tax Man and the Moving Van examined U.S. Census data on internal migration, finding that high state taxes correlate to citizens' desire to move to another state. Given that 73 million Americans moved from one state to another during the 1990s, this is no small matter. California was one of the biggest losers of population due to internal migration from 1995-2000, while Arizona and Nevada gained the most.

Talton implicitly dismisses the Valley's surging population and argues that the economic success of a city hinges on the ability to attract educated workers-a "quality over quantity" argument. Quality and quantity, however, are not mutually exclusive. The Economist recently cited figures by demographer William Frey showing the metro areas with the highest gains and losses (respectively) of college graduates over the age of 25 between 1995 and 2000.

The result? The Phoenix area made the second largest absolute gain (63,084) in college graduates in the country, behind only Atlanta.

While the Arizona Republic continues printing calls for neo-Gosplan, Arizona's continued prosperity depends on ignoring such muddled advice.

Key Links:
-Talton: "San Diego, Phoenix: 2 growth formulas"
- Economist: "Centrifugal forces"
-Study: The Tax Man and the Moving Van

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