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Anusuya Chatterjee
Managing Economist, Research
Aging and Demographics and Education & Workforce Development and Health and Human Capital and Indexes & Rankings and Public Policy and Regional Economics
Dr. Anusuya Chatterjee is a managing economist at the Milken Institute. Her expertise is in measuring broad economic impacts of health- and longevity-related issues. She has led research efforts on some of the Institute's highest-profile publications, involving such topics as the economics of chronic disease prevention and management, obesity, economics...
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Is California's brain drain helping Texas gain?
By: Anusuya Chatterjee
March 15, 2011
   
   

At 37 million strong, California tops the nation in population, followed by Texas, with 25 million. But Texas' population grew twice as fast as California's in the past decade, the 2010 census shows. The Golden State's population swelled by 10 percent since 2000, while Texas' numbers shot up by 20.6 percent. That's bad news because a growing population is an economic asset.

A decade ago, California was thriving, with researchers, scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs flocking to Silicon Valley and other parts of the state. If these people who have been the backbone of California's economic growth are leaving - and there are indicators that some are - then California has great cause for concern. Among those making an exit are tech-savvy first-generation immigrants giving up on California's high cost of living. Many may also be fairly recent arrivals with few familial or long-term social ties keeping them here. That innovative workforce is also more mobile than their less-skilled counterparts.

As a destination, Texas has a lot to offer. Affordable real estate, many reputedly good schools and low taxes are making the decision easier for many. In addition, many Texas metropolitan areas rank high in job creation while California's unemployment rate lingers at 12.4 percent.

Clearly people are voting with their feet. What can California do to stem the tide? We hope policymakers in Sacramento, as they struggle with California's budget challenges, think strategically about how to retain the state's most valuable human capital. While lawmakers cannot magically make homes more affordable, other steps might help highly skilled middle-class residents envision a happy future in California. If California can't lower income tax rates, can it provide vouchers for private school tuition? How about reducing sales tax rates but taxing e-commerce? Let's hope the budget gives the most desirable workers incentives to stay - beyond beautiful weather and easy access to Disneyland.