Back in October, The Christian Science Monitor Weekly did a feature titled, "The Great Brain Gain." I missed it because I've been busy researching a story developing in San Antonio. The similarities are striking. It is a global trend that defines the economy emerging from the ashes of the last recession. A few weeks ago, The CSM blog followed up on the talent flow to Poland, specifically Krakow:

The ferment of brain gain among European youth and IT wonks and mavens may be in the air. Yet – like visiting any school classroom to “see” education – it is often difficult to instantly quantify something as amorphous as “brain gain” taking place.

Google’s Burkot suggests that brain gain is “incremental in Poland.”

His colleague Tancinco thinks he sees it, though. “The empirical evidence of gain in Krakow is that when I came here four years ago there was one venture capitalist. Now there are six or seven. That is a barometer. Venture capitalists need to see a talent pool of emerging firms with good ideas or they won’t come. You need to see an incubation, a pool of start ups to be the next ‘whatever.’ ”



Indeed, gauging the brain gain thanks to return migration can be tricky. The reshuffling of talent resulting from the financial crisis is only a few years old. The local impacts are just beginning to surface. For Krakow and San Antonio, the best is yet to come.

In the cases of San Antonio and Cleveland (a previous return migration study I did last year), making those who did move back more visible and connected are the main problems. The brain gain tends to be isolated, its effects diluted. The inmigration is squandered. Venture capitalists cannot "see a talent pool of emerging firms with good ideas".

In terms of demographic analysis, we are stuck in the era of manufacturing. We cultivate a local workforce for local jobs. We worry about the lack of population growth. A shrinking city means brain drain. That's inaccurate. Pittsburgh has lost people but gained college graduates. The workforce is growing, setting records monthly. The talent dividend metrics are rosy.

So we've started obsessing educational attainment rates, a step in the right direction. San Antonio's numbers are surging in the right direction. But the overall percentage of adults with a college degree are still relatively low. The return migration remains hidden. New times demand new numbers. Stay tuned.