The Young and Unemployed

As the old song goes, the children are the future, and in discussing the effects of our graying workforce, John Kostrzewa worries about Rhode Island’s:

Eleven percent of the 107,108 people ages 22 to 29 who lived in Rhode Island in 2008 moved out in 2009. That’s 11,200 young people.
The numbers are even scarier when you break out college educated Rhode Islanders.
One in five who were here in 2008 had left in 2009, largely because they couldn’t find a job.

Kostrzewa’s mainly addressing the effects of our long-running downturn, but since I arrived in the late ’90s, it’s been the common wisdom in Rhode Island that young adults had to leave to find opportunity. The Great Recession just exacerbated what was already a problem, and as factions fight over slices of the public pie and beneficiaries demand that the pie be expanded through taxation, necessary priorities come into stark relief.
After all, what’s the point of Rhode Island’s generous “investment” in education if the products of our efforts — highly educated young adults — simply leave? Increasing taxation and making it harder to do business in the state in order to prop up an inefficient educational system of questionable quality has the steps backwards. The state has to reorder its priorities, and the people who make public decisions (and those who pull their strings) are manifestly disinclined to do so.
Commenting to my morning post, yesterday, Dan offered a compelling simile:

Fixing Rhode Island’s cyclic financial problems at this end-game point in time is like trying to remove a horned toad that has inflated itself in crack deep between two jagged desert rocks while it bites and hisses and squirts defensive blood at you out of its eyes. Any herpetologist knows that once it has retreated in there, it’s too late and it’s time to move on to another location. Lots of other states to choose from in the United States.

Or, as Mark Patinkin put it, while explaining that RI’s elected leaders have to do what’s necessary, even if it means the end of their political careers:

One can say many public employees — especially those doing risky jobs like cops and firemen — deserve such pensions. Even I think they do. But sadly, we are past the point of talking about “deserve.” We’re in the realm of “afford.”

Pensions are only a heavily bleeding part of the wound. Rhode Island has to make subjective notions of fairness and desert secondary to functional possibility. Social services have to be curtailed; the education system has to stop being managed under the assumption that more money means better results; and regulatory manacles have to be removed from businesses, even if it means that the state no longer micromanages everybody’s safety and, yes, even if it means that people get rich.

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JohnD
John(@disqus_cihud2gmi1)
10 years ago

My college educated children have escaped, moving to a state that offers good employment opportunity and balanced government. Yes, it is a right-to-work state and my daughter-in-law is a public school teacher, but she has to self-evaluate every year and be reviewed by an administrative review panel in order to keep her job. She is thriving, as are my sons.
I will surely follow, only kept here until family circumstances make it possible to leave. Though deeply involved in the process, I am convinced that there is too much political inbreeding in this state for it to survive. And to hope that we will ever see the state thrive…impossible!
Soon there will be too many hogs at the trough and no one left to feed them.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Upon graduating from school, I found no work in Rhode Island that didn’t require hundreds or even thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in order to be considered. The Rhode Island interviewers were interested only in how long I had lived in the state, who I “knew,” and how much money I had contributed to Democratic political candidates. The usual criteria like experience, grades, and writing ability were treated as the most inconsequential irrelevancies. 50-75% of my “competition” for these positions were invariably Roger Williams or Suffolk Law School grads with a tendency to bring up their judge or politician father in conversation as some sort of local letter of introduction.
I moved to Virginia and immediately found a position on my merits (they were impressed by a legal brief I had written, which nobody in Rhode Island would even read). My significant other followed to Virginia two weeks later and found a position herself after two interviews. Two of my best friends, coming up short on their own New England job searches, followed us to Virginia over the next three months and also found jobs. My third good friend, who, for reasons I can’t understand, remains infatuated by corrupt insider New England politics despite being quite conservative and detesting its waste and abuses, refuses to move down here with us and continues his fruitless Rhode Island and Massachusetts job search, going on a year now.

chuckR
chuckR
10 years ago

I was going to comment, but John pretty much summed up my experience. 28 YO son has already escaped and 23 YO daughter will, as soon as she graduates next year.

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

Eleven percent of the 107,108 people ages 22 to 29 who lived in Rhode Island in 2008 moved out in 2009. That’s 11,200 young people.

So what’s the national average? How about for New Englang? The Northeast?
The number means nothing without context as much as your “common knowledge” makes you want to believe those numbers are significant. I “moved out” of Virginia in my twenties… to return home when I finished college. That doesn’t say a thing about the job opportunities in Va. What it says is that Virginia has good colleges that draw in many kids from out of state.

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