Brain drain: A deeper look into why Nebraskans are leaving the state
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - On the minds of college students, what’s next? Not just on their schedules but after graduation. Data shows that more and more people with bachelor’s degrees are leaving Nebraska.
6 News spoke with Dr. Josie Schafer, director of UNO’s Center for Public Affairs Research. The center analyzed census data, labor statistics, and a survey of more than 500 people who left Nebraska and why.
“People from other states come in every year and people leave Nebraska for other states every year. But more leave than come in,” said Schafer.
The group leaving at the highest rate was those with bachelor’s degrees.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the No. 1 reason people left Nebraska within the past year is for a new job or job transfer. The second reason was that they got married or divorced and the third was for other family reasons.
“It has a lot to do with our workforce dynamics now. In the state today, we have more low-wage, lower-skilled jobs. And that’s where the job openings are. And so the group with the bachelor’s degree or more are more likely to leave the state because there’re more extensive, high skilled, high wage job openings in other states,” she said.
In 2019, the Omaha Chamber of Commerce surveyed 500 people who left Nebraska and asked them why.
That also showed professional growth was the biggest reason to relocate.
6 News spoke with college students set to graduate about their plans. Job opportunities and family were the top decision drivers.
“Probably out of Nebraska,” said Ben Trapp, a junior. “Probably out of the Midwest. Or at least to a little bit of a bigger city.”
“Probably better job opportunities out there,” Drew Niewohner, another junior. “Yeah, that’s pretty much the main reason.”
“My family’s here and I’ve just been born and raised here, so that’s where I’m staying,” Jennifer Leiva, a senior.
“I think it’s actually just more affordable to stay,” David O’Connell, another senior. “For my career, a lot of tech people might go out of state or different possible stem majors, but I think I could grow better actually staying here. Then if I wanted to travel then go other places.”
O’Connell hopes to be a high school art teacher and mentioned those in STEM may be more inclined to go.
“These are jobs, particularly that are very high paying but we don’t have a lot here in Nebraska. That’s computer and math, that’s life and physical and social sciences, that’s architectural and engineering, that’s legal,” said Schafer.
Schafer said that more jobs in that area would help. And while those industries grew in the past five years and are projected to continue to grow, she said recruitment and retention in higher education could help keep that talent in Nebraska.
The Omaha Chamber’s survey also asked reasons people would and wouldn’t consider moving back to Omaha. Career opportunities, family, salary, and professional development would bring them back. Lack of diversity, political climate, weather, and taxes would keep them away.
A CLOSER LOOK
View the Omaha Chamber of Commerce survey data presentation.
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