Brain Drain in Lancaster County

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?