Research shows college-educated workers leaving Nebraska for jobs, pay

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – For the last decade, Nebraska has been suffering from brain drain, according to the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Ultimately, that means people with at least a bachelor’s degree are moving out of Nebraska to other states every year.

On average, Nebraska has lost about 2,000 people every year with a bachelor’s degree or more since 2010.

And in 2020, an outlier year, we saw over 4,000 leave the state.

“It’s something we need to consider, I think it’s something we need to watch and track overtime. But it is just one of many measures that help us to think about how our economy is doing,” Josie Schafer, the Director of the Center for Public Affairs Research at UNO said.

There are many reasons why someone may leave the state, but according to Schafer’s research, the consistent driving factor seems to be job opportunities and pay.

“We know here in Nebraska we have more people that work in jobs below the median income of $40,000 verse above the median income of $40,000,” Schafer said.  “And we know we have a really tight labor force, everyone here is employed, there is not a lot of job-hopping going around and there is not a lot of movement or business growth.  And so to get those job opportunities and higher pay, you might have to go out of state.”

But there are many other reasons someone with a bachelor’s degree might leave, such as family, cost of living, and recreation. But Nebraska politics could also be playing a role.

“I think the political climate right now is certainly tense, I think folks are really aware, Schafer said.  “I think here in Nebraska we’re extremely engaged in these conversations about values and political culture and climate and so I think that will absolutely impact the decision for someone to move in or to leave.”

Because of that, collaborations like the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development have programs to get people to stay.

A program called MyTern was started in 2017.  It connects interns to events and networking opportunities throughout the capital city.

The program is designed to showcase life in Lincoln and give young adults a life outside of the office.

“We have to support professional development and growth opportunities and make sure that people feel they have the ability to work over the course of their life, right here in Nebraska,” Schafer said.

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