Michael Wilson – For years, rural areas across the country have seen a fluctuation in population. According to Dr. Kenneth M. Johnson, Professor of Sociology at Loyola University-Chicago, there are migration streams going both ways from rural to urban and urban to rural. (10) He points out the problem is the outflow is the younger generation and the inflow is older. To understand the extent of the problem some of the questions asked by researchers are; why are young people leaving, are only older retirees returning, is there anything that can be done to attract more young migrants. There are multiple disciplines searching for answers to both explain the phenomena and to propose solutions to the issue. Each approaches it from a unique perspective. Researchers are studying how rural schools can retain their students when the community loses its economic engine. Others are looking into whether or not schools are focusing too much on their highest achieving students and sending them away. Is there a way to entice younger people to leave urban metropolitan areas for a rural community? A review of the literature on the research dealing with “Brain Drain” has numerous interconnected threads and shows that preventing or reversing rural population loss among the younger generation is an issue that has no easy answer.
When it comes to the population decline in rural communities, many researchers look at the schools, some as a cause others what the schools mean to the community. As Washington State University, Sociology Professor Dr. Jennifer Sherman shows, residents in Golden Valley, California after they lost their logging industry in 1996 “Residents looked to its public schools as a source of community cohesion, but also recognized them as the main agents of ‘brain drain,’”. Further, in her study, Professor Sherman discusses how people in the town had split opinions on the value of an education and some complained that the best and brightest were leaving to attend school and not returning. A study by Ipsos Public Affairs research director Robert A. Petrin, that while some argue that schools and educators are the main reason for the decline in the population of younger people in the community, that is not borne out by the data. According to Petrin, “Yet these data also reveal the strong ties many rural youth have to their home areas and suggest that outside of family structure and residential status, economic factors are the major correlates of youth residential aspirations, rather than the influence of educators or other school-level factors.” One area of concern though is a lack of quality younger teacher to replace those who retire.
When thinking about the importance of the schools to rural communities and especially in relation to the ebb and flow of the migration patterns. Research conducted by David H. Monk, Dean of the College of Education at Pennsylvania State University, looks at the differences between the teachers in both rural and urban areas. He points out that the data shows teachers in rural areas tend to be less experienced and less well trained. The research also indicates that improvements in technology would also prove positive in attracting a more talented and diverse teaching pool. Professor of Education at Acadia University, Michael Corbett, after researching the same issue from a rural Canadian viewpoint, in his paper, he discusses what he labels “Five child-rearing frames”. According to his findings, each of these frames has an impact on how the family approaches education. While his research was conducted in fishing communities in North Eastern Canada, his findings that by better integrating technology and class lessons, students are better suited for life in a global workplace. The research investigating how to retain both families and teachers is tending towards the acknowledgment of how important technology is to the question of bringing young families back to the community.
John Cromartie, a Phd. in Geography and a researcher for the USDA, in a study conducted in multiple rural areas around the United States, surveyed younger returnees as to why they came back to their home. His research indicated that many brought back a spouse, children, or they had plans to start a family.. Additionally the quality of the schools and investments made by the community to maintain infrastructure also played a role. His research shows that getting people to migrate back to rural communities may be more effective than attempting to simply retain them. He also points out that many communities have made extensive efforts to attract retirees. In another study Dr. Cromartie, discusses how “Baby Boomers” are tending to migrate out of urban areas back towards rural. The data predicts, “If baby boomers follow migration patterns similar to those of their predecessors, the rural population age 55-75 will increase by 30 percent between 2010 and 2020.” The research continues to look at the long term impact the aging returnees will have on the various communities. Those at the bottom range of the baby boomer age group, will be aged appropriately so that they can bear children, while those on the upper end, cannot. Either way the inbound migration will have an impact on the educational system but.
Research on the subject of “Brain Drain” is ongoing and diverse. The impact that outbound migration has and will have on the educational system of the affected communities is now being researched on a wide scale. The impact of outbound migration on areas other than education are also candidates for research. This issue is one that has the potential to impact every person in one way or another.