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The State of "Brain Drain" for 2024

The State of "Brain Drain" for 2024

By Taylor Hendrix, Workforce Insights Analyst 

The term “Brain Drain” refers to the departure of educated or professional people from one area, economic sector, or field for another usually for better pay or living conditions.[1] In 2019, Congress released a study of this phenomenon that narrowed it further to individuals between the ages of 31 and 40, and in the top third of Americans for educational attainment.

Of course, it stands to reason that “draining” from one area must result, somewhere, in brain gain. Because the South Carolina economy continues to grow and prosper with a record-high labor force and record-low unemployment numbers, a 2024 study of Census data by moving services company HireAHelper shows that our state is the second highest in the country for net in-migration of college-educated Americans. [2] Let’s take a closer look at what the data shows compared to the rest of the country.

South Carolina in Context

According to the data the top three destinations for education Americans in 2023 were: Washington (169%+), South Carolina (137%+), and Nevada (111%+). In addition, two of the ten fastest-growing metros for college-educated individuals are in South Carolina: Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin (48%+) and Charleston-North Charleston (47%+). One of the most common motivations for moving was an already materialized job opportunity: college-educated movers were more than 1.7 times more likely to report moving for a new job or job transfer than were lesser educated movers.

Highest Net Gains

Which States Are Losing?

On the other end of the spectrum, several states are facing difficulty keeping college-educated individuals within their borders. South Dakota, the state with the largest net losses, saw 72% more people with a college degree leave the state compared to those who moved in. Several states in the Southeast region are also suffering from “brain drain,” including Mississippi (-67%), Louisiana (-62%), Oklahoma (-62%), and Alabama (-45%). Overall, Tennessee is losing educated residents, this despite the Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin metro area being the second highest in net gains at 98%.

Lowest Net Losses

Conclusion

South Carolina is operating at a uniquely high level for in-migration of educated Americans, reporting more gains in 2023 than any other state but Washington. According to the latest Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) data, South Carolina has added almost 70,000 more employed people since the end of 2022. The state’s economic success is clearly being recognized and sought.


[1] “Brain drain.” Adapted from the definition in Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brain%20drain.

[2] “2024 study: ‘brain drain’? The states with the largest net gains and losses of college-educated Americans.” Hire A Helper, https://blog.hireahelper.com/2024-study-brain-drain-the-states-with-the-largest-net-gains-and-losses-of-college-educated-americans/.