Professor Haan: Rock Star

I got to see Dr. Michael Haan’s demographics presentation last night for the first time.  Haan is the Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Population and Social Policy at UNB.

His stuff is sobering and clearly shows the impact of out-migration from a demographic perspective on New Brunswick.

One of the most interesting areas of Haan’s research is his work looking at exiles.  He took a look at the economic performance of New Brunswickers who had moved away (using Census data) and found they were twice as likely to own a business, three times more likely to have a university education and four times more likely to earn over $100,000/year.

My father used to say “anyone with any get up and go already got up and left” – referring to a specific community but it is interesting.  There is more work to be done on this but it is a stark view on the question of who leaves?  Is it your best and brightest?

In the case of Haan, there is a good example of the best and brightest moving here.

7 thoughts on “Professor Haan: Rock Star

  1. That’s the kind of stuff Richard is often complaining about-the lack of decent research like this. Not sure where you heard it, but maybe mentioning it to the TJ editors or talking about it in your article is a start. I know that CBC has a set list of ‘experts’, it would be nice if something like this could be turned into a ‘news story’.

    But to be a bit cynical, where in the census does it ask a person where they are from? And once you move out of the COUNTRY, which many do, I don’t think there is any way to track them. But as we’ve discussed before, its a cottage industry of expats teaching english abroad.

  2. “the economic performance of New Brunswickers who had moved away ”

    Let me add to that. If the economic opportunity (chances at getting a good paying job, work in your area of expertise, likelihood that your business will generate sufficient revenue, etc) in one region is X and in another region is 10X, persons emigrating from region x to region 10x will find more economic success whether they are ‘stars’ or ‘duds’. There are many people who have emigrated to AB who have been successful businesspersons; had they remained in an area of less economic opportunity their chances of success would be much reduced.

    In other words, it’s location, not the person moving to the location that is important. We are training people in NB but are not providing the economic opportunity for them to stay. There is little or no evidence for the assumption that the best and brightest are leaving; the data simply say that if you leave an area of limited economic opportunity and move to one with more opportunity your chance of success is increased. Is that a surprise?

  3. That’s a good point, and to add to that, I recently read a book called “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives” and the reality in the business world is like the Irving rag has the President of Radian 6 saying: that government investment is imperative because lack of investment is the single biggest detriment to business. Much of what counts as success or failure in the business world is based simply on luck, not individual accomplishments-which is something that is hard to get people to admit in our presbyterian society. We love to paint industry leaders, even entertainers as ‘geniuses’, when usually it simply comes down to random luck. Something those guys at Radian 6 openly admitted.

    So actually what EVERY region NEEDS is ‘more failures’. Because if you have more TRIES, then you will get more success. The internet has made the world smaller, in today’s world you have a MUCH bigger chance of being successful AND finding investment than even a decade ago. Radian 6 didn’t succeed because of an NB market. However, what is nice about local government investment is that those owners of Radian6 now at least feel a moral compulsion to help out the industry and invest locally.

    In the end it DOES come to confidence and educational training toward industries where you CAN succeed and stay at home.

  4. I guess my first post, wherein I compared Haan to Richard Florida, disappeared. Based on how the press has reported Haan’s talks, I believe he has misinterpreted his data. He seems to believe that the ‘best and brightest’ have left. I think it is more likely that lots of people have left and that among them are some of the best and brightest, but also some of the duds. The income and achievement he records of those who left is more indicative of better economic opportunity elsewhere than that they have some special characteristics that NB has failed to retain.

  5. Dear Richard,

    Thanks very much for your thoughtful points. I feel I should clarify my position, because I worry that my findings are being taken out of context. I agree with you that NB did not lose all of its best and brightest, only some of them. The people that left, on average, did better than both the people that stayed *and* similar people in the regions they joined. This suggests to me that NB lost some of its stars among the baby boom generation (though certainly not all), and that it wasn’t just the context of reception in their new locale – if it was, then they would be performing on par with their peers, rather than surpassing them.

    I should also try to distinguish myself from Richard Florida. I’m not making the case for a creative class, but I’m instead trying to underscore the importance of retaining talented born and bred New Brunswickers across their life course. In particular I think of the baby echo (the children of boomers), because they are approaching the age at which many in their parent’s generation left the province. They are also entering the age at which they’ll marry, start new families, etc. They’re also approaching the age at which they’ll be most productive in the labour market. Losing the baby echo would be akin to losing an immense human resource.

    At the same time, my research on this topic is in its infancy, so I could be terribly wrong. At this point I’m happy to raise the profile of the topic even if it turns out that I’ve missed the boat entirely.

    Best wishes,
    Michael Haan

  6. “The people that left, on average, did better than both the people that stayed *and* similar people in the regions they joined”

    I think your data are confounded due to the immigrant effect.

    “underscore the importance of retaining talented born and bred New Brunswickers across their life course”

    I don’t disagree with that. Who would? The way to do that is to provide more economic opportunity in NB. The question is how to do that? No offense, but it seems to me you are trying to answer a question that is largely irrelevant. The only important question what policies are needed to create the economic opportunity needed. One answer to that, based on what has been achieved elswhere, would be to pump up science and engineering R&D in order to generate innovation. I would be quite happy to gut humanities programs at our unis to free up dollars to do that.

    Yes, I do think you are wrong, but it doesn’t matter because the question you are trying to answer does not matter.

  7. For Michael Haan
    I’m married to a baby boomer retired back to his roots after a career and life in ONT (my home prov.) I’m loving the peace, quiet, non-rush hour, wildness etc but I’d be outta here too if I was 30 – AND seen what’s on “the other side”! Consider my limited observations with fresh eyes from “away”. My particular area (and the other parts of NB we’ve visited briefly) seems to be chock full of people who want NO change, are content to “make a life not a living” happy with “good ’nuff eh?” and “jeeze, don’t yell at me, I’m jest the nut turner!” (direct quotes) Everyone has rules and like sheep follow them without question in order to avoid confrontation or discipline regardless if they make sense or slow production.
    I’ve heard an example where the hiring qualifications were to be high school and found out many current job holders only had grade 8, so they scrapped that! In other words, rather than rise to a higher level, dumb it down to the lowest common denominator.
    Education is the answer to pretty much anything and everything. I’m trying to address the obesity epidemic here through education and being met with a ‘live free or die’ attitude and great resistance to anyone telling them what to feed their kids. How do you fight that? And when there are glimmers of light it is inside a dark void.
    Like Dorthy, the problem is once you pull back the curtain and expose the wizard, everyone realizes it’s just not good enough – eh?

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