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London Brain Drain

England's capital meets the definition of brain drain, but that can be an indicator of success as opposed to a problem to be solved.
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Last week, I was in Baltimore at the Federal Reserve Bank branch office for a conference. Along with Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia, we were "Redefining Rust Belt." The conversation in Baltimore concerned brain drain from distressed neighborhoods. Conventional wisdom holds that people flee bad places. Out-migration means something is wrong with the neighborhood. If that's true, then something is amiss in London:

Over the 12-month period, 203,000 people moved into the capital - an number equivalent to the whole number to the population of York - although 255,000 moved out. This means that about 10,000 more people left London for other parts of the UK than during the previous 12-month period.

Emphasis added. With tongue in cheek, London is dying. A quarter of a million people fleeing London in just one year is an impressive number. Equally impressive is 200,000 U.K. residents moving into London.

While not well received in Baltimore, I pointed out New York as a similar example. People vote with their feet. The city is dying:

Twenty years ago, New York was home to half of all advertising agency headquarters in the world. Now it hosts less than one third. London has quietly claimed much of what New York has lost.


The high cost of work space and housing in New York has prompted increasing numbers of artists and creative workers to decide it’s simply not worth it to stay here—especially as other cities offer enticements to relocate.

The celebrated Creative Class will move away from vibrant neighborhoods. Better educated children are also more likely to go. Excellent schools are killing the Rust Belt.

Brain drain is an indicator of success, not a problem to be solved. London takes in talent from all over the world, makes it better, and then spits it out all the more productive and prosperous. A neighborhood or a city with negative net domestic migration might be healthy. It might be more London than Detroit.