An Issue of Age, Class, or Subculture?

Since I began at The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry last July, I have repeatedly heard concerns from community leaders from a variety of backgrounds about the “brain drain” our county–and in fact our region–faces.

By Flickr user Gaetan Lee.

The situation is pretty simple. Lancaster’s teens leave town for college and never return, while students who come to Lancaster for higher ed (at F&M, Millersville, E-town, etc.) stay through college and then return closer to where they grew up. All the while, Lancaster’s high school dropouts stay put.

This intellectual/creative stagnation makes us worse off than other metropolitan regions along the East Coast and across the country.

I’m interested in what the underlying issues are here. Is it primarily a question of attracting/retaining talented young people? If so, why are the barriers to entry in the civic sphere so high for residents my age? Alternately, are we facing an issue of class? If so, where are “third ways” arising as alternatives to the tired conservative/liberal duo? Or, is it a question of subculture? If so, why aren’t we more effective at bringing it more mainstream?

2 thoughts on “Brain Drain in Lancaster County

  1. I know that when I was younger, I couldn’t wait to get out of Lancaster. In fact I only moved back to the county about 2 years ago after being gone for close to 10. I found the area stiffling when I was younger, and it still can be very conservative here. Also, aren’t we known for being extremely careful with our money? Perhaps those are reasons that the young people leave. I know that I run into people all the time that are in a similar situation as me. They grew up here, moved away, and now have returned.

  2. I think young people leaving is totally reasonable and understandable. I would definitely like to see people more encouraged to bring back innovative and creative ideas with them when they return. It seems the majority of people return in order to “settle down,” usually including having children. It would be awesome to see people return in order to do the opposite of settling down–to stir things up and create new and exciting enterprises!

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