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Toward the end of “Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy gets a mantra, “There’s no place like home.” Repeating the mantra helps her get home. Dorothy had taken the action required to know, “There’s no place like home.” She left.
Those who never leave have no basis for comparing home to anywhere else.
For high school graduates considering college, my advice continues to be: if you have the money, get out of town. Even better, get out of state.
The reason is simple: Young people need to know about somewhere other than where they grew up. They need the experience. That experience will teach them why they want to live in New Mexico, or why they don’t.
This applies only to the sadly small percentage of our young people graduating from high school. Of those who stagger from Albuquerque’s public schools with a diploma, I understand fewer than ten percent leave the state for college – a minority of a minority.
Military service provides the same benefit with some bonuses: One gets paid, serves the country, and, perhaps, later gets support for additional education.
For nearly half the state’s population, attending the local college is the default. The University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College and a few others are handy and cheaper than elsewhere. This inert local mass—I’m really talking about Albuquerque and Santa Fe—creates a dead-weight parochialism that hampers the state. It shows in the trumpeting of a multi-generational New Mexico heritage somehow lifting the individual to a higher plane, as if those of us accidently not born in New Mexico can’t “get” the state’s spiritual essence.
This claim of native-born heavenliness ignores a basic demographic. In 2010, just barely half of New Mexicans were born in the state—1.07 million out of a population of 2.07 million. My guess is that a good many of these native born are children of people born elsewhere. The elsewhere group has two parts: 793,000 born in another state or a U.S. territory and 201,000 foreign born.
Movers win, both in financial terms and experience. Larger places have more money and more fun.
Alexis de Tocqueville in “Democracy in America” considers “why great nations contribute more powerfully to the increase of knowledge and the advance of civilization than small places.” He finds “an adequate cause in the more rapid and energetic circulation of ideas and in those great cities which are the intellectual centers where all the rays of human genius are reflected and combined.”
Today, education and movement correlate, says Enrico Moretti, a University of California economics professor. “In total, almost half of college graduates move out of their birth states by age 30. Only 27 percent of high school graduates and 17 percent of dropouts do so.”
The rule remains, the more education, the more income. While those college grads split from family by moving, they pursue opportunity, those “rays of human genius” de Tocqueville mentioned. Another rule is that young people are more mobile, in part because they have not purchased homes.
We should learn more about why people move to New Mexico, not the ones enraptured of sunsets, but the people seeking opportunity, growth, excitement and income for themselves and their families. A partial answer is that the national laboratories recruit in the intellectual stratosphere of Cal Tech and MIT.
New adult residents are crucial. They enrich our dynamics and pay taxes. Much of our population growth comes from babies who need those adult taxes.
For creating a better Albuquerque, the biggest issue is finding a way to expand the spendable income, Seth Brown, a Sprouts Farmers Market executive, told Albuquerque developers recently. That’s the biggest issue for New Mexico, too.
New Mexico Progress