Memphis Has Brains

By David Taylor

This week Bloomberg released its 2017 Brain Drain and Brain Concentration Index for U.S. Metro Areas. For the Brain Drain Index metro areas were assessed on their “drain”, or loss of advanced degree holders, white-collar jobs, STEM pay, and net business closure. The Brain Concentration Index used concentrations of full-time STEM workforce, advanced degree or Science & Engineering undergraduate degree holders, and net business formation.


According to this index, Memphis is number 31 on the Brain Drain Index among a list of mostly Rust Belt cities and small university towns. One of the key criteria for Memphis is the three-year average of outflow and inflow of advanced degree holders at -4.6% and 3.4% respectively. This is similar to many small university towns, where graduates with advanced degrees leave to find jobs in bigger cities with more opportunities. Another key criterion for Memphis is the one-year decline in median earnings of -8.6% for STEM jobs. These stats suggest that Memphis does not have an issue with developing talent but with keeping talent. However, with a high quality of life, low cost of living, and several strong institutions of higher education Memphis already has some of the prime ingredients for plugging the drain.