Want young people to boomerang back to your community? Get sticky with your high-achievers.

Posted in Vibrant Rural

This year, we’ve written quite a bit on the misconceptions surrounding brain drain – the outmigration of young people after high school graduation – in rural communities. Outposts guest blogger Aaron Brown recently discussed brain gain and the promise it holds for the future of healthy rural communities. He started by saying “Our future rests not in whether we lose young people, but how we welcome them back”.

So we know young people are coming back. But why? Quality of life is a top priority, said sociologist Ben Winchester. People are moving back, then finding jobs – in that order.

Also, if people have already lived in or visited a location, they’re more likely to move there because they have an established connection. “It comes down to, ‘how much do you love this place?,” said Robert Bell, co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum in Brown’s post.

Think of your community. How could you identify the young people who love it the most? New research might help. Published in the American Educational Research Journal, three scholars found that while high school high-achievers are the most likely to leave their rural community after graduation, they also have a stronger desire to return than non-high-achievers. Why? Because of their deep levels of community engagement.

The perception of local economic conditions has an even stronger pull factor. If young people believe they will be able to find a job in their home community, they’re more likely to stay.

What is your community doing to show high-achieving young people that there are growth opportunities right in their home town? Post below!

For more on the study, see this article at the Daily Yonder.