Kalamazoo researchers dispute Bloomberg ‘brain drain’ report

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Researchers in Kalamazoo are disputing a report that gave the metro area the worst ranking on the Bloomberg Brain Drain Index.

The ranking lists communities that have lost the most highly educated workers in recent years.

The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research discovered the error. President Michael Horrigan says they are working to contact Bloomberg and have recalculated some numbers.

“They were comparing apples and oranges,” Horrigan said.

He says his organization noticed a substantial mistake in how the list was compiled.

“The problem is when they did those comparisons, they were using the America Community Survey, which is a great survey. But the American Community Survey made a fundamental change following some federal guidelines between 2015 and 2019, so in 2015 the area that they’re looking at, which is called the Kalamazoo Portage Metropolitan Statistical Area, that area included Van Buren County. In 2019, the definition of the Kalamazoo Portage MSA excluded Van Buren,” Horrigan said.

The institute says that resulted in the Bloomberg numbers concerning Kalamazoo to be off significantly.

“I do not think Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo Portage MSA, would be anywhere on that list in terms of the cities with the greatest brain drain,” Horrigan said.

State Sen. Sean McCann, who represents Kalamazoo County, was surprised by the Bloomberg ranking.

“I immediately was like, ‘wait a minute,’ this is wrong. This is not our community,” McCann said.

He is calling for the error to be fixed and says he does not want people to get the wrong impression of the area, which has seen growth in science and technology fields with major companies like Stryker. He mentioned the recent investments made to the Pfizer facility in Portage, which manufactures a COVID-19 vaccine.

Ryan Bridges, public information officer for the City of Kalamazoo, provided this statement in response to the ranking.

“In the City of Kalamazoo, we prioritize education. We are honored to be home to several higher education institutions – including Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Spring Arbor University in neighboring Portage. As a result, we have adopted the nickname “the education city.” We understand the value of education, which was a driving force behind the development of the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship, which provides free college tuition to students graduating from Kalamazoo Public Schools. We believe the Bloomberg analysis is skewed because they changed the way information was compiled for the Kalamazoo Portage Metropolitan Statistical Area (KPMSA) in 2019. In 2015, Van Buren County was included, but it was removed when calculated in 2019, making it appear there was a 21% population decline in that four-year period. If you compare like data, Kalamazoo’s population increased by 2% between 2015 and 2019.” 

Ryan Bridges, public information officer for the City of Kalamazoo

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