Philly sees brain gain

Graduates from local colleges and universities have increasingly chosen to stay in Philadelphia after receiving their diplomas.

In recent years, Philadelphia has seen a reverse in the economic dilemma of “brain drain,” a term used when college students graduate and find employment in a different town or city. According to Campus Philly, Philadelphia is the number one metropolitan area with regard to growth in the number of college-educated young adults.

According to the 2012 American Community Survey, only 23 percent of Philadelphians have a bachelor’s degree or higher, but Philadelphia is beginning to retain its college graduates.

This upward trend began between four and six years ago, recognized in the 2010 census data. The data showed that Philadelphia’s population rose for the first time in 50 years, with the gain consisting mostly of young adults.

“We really don’t talk about brain drain anymore, primarily because Philadelphia has done exceedingly well in attracting millennials with college degrees,” said Deborah Diamond, president of Campus Philly.

Campus Philly believes that this trend will only continue, in turn making Philadelphia a hotspot for young professionals.

“Success begets success,” Diamond said. “This is kind of a flywheel situation where once a place is known as being a great place for young people with a degree, more people are attracted.”

Because of this development, Campus Philly and higher education institutions are developing ways to expose students to the city, its various communities and the job opportunities that exist.

“The campus community is a very powerful anchor,” Diamond said. “When that community goes away, what becomes of your community? Philadelphia has such great and interesting and accessible communities off campus that are already strong and filled with young people.”

According to a survey of local colleges conducted by Campus Philly, nearly two-thirds of Temple students have plans to stay in the Philadelphia area after graduation.

This was the case for Falyn Donaldson. Donaldson, who still visits Main Campus to walk her dog, graduated in 2014 with a degree in sports and recreation management with a minor in business management. She utilized Temple’s career resources when looking for a job. Two months after graduating, she began working for an advertising agency in Center City.

“You just have to put in the work,” Donaldson said, expressing confidence in the Philadelphia job market.

This is the attitude of many Temple students. Zachary Parnell, a finance major, will finish his junior year this semester. He said he has no doubt that he will be able to find a job in the city.

“There’s a great job outlook for accountants everywhere,” Parnell said. “You know, I always have that part of me that wants to move out west, that wants me to move elsewhere because we’re never satisfied with where we’re at. But I definitely think that Philadelphia has job opportunities and I definitely plan to stay in the city after graduation.”

This feeling is shared across different career fields. Austin Meyer, a secondary education major originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said he sees benefits to staying in Philadelphia.

“I think [the job market is] better than where I’m from,” Meyer said.

Diamond believes that this attraction to the city can be attributed to job opportunity and quality of life.

“Those are the two things driving this generation’s choice of where to live and much less where they’re from, where their family is and where they have former attachments to,” Diamond said.

Referencing the book “The New Geography of Jobs” by Enrico Moretti, Diamond suggested that those in the creative and knowledge economy want to be around similar people and that doing so leads to a stimulated and inspired workforce.

“What you’re finding now are clusters of highly skilled workers gravitating towards certain metropolises, and Philadelphia is one of those,” Diamond said.

The evidence projects good things for the city’s future.

“The fact that we have a head start and that we’ve been seeing this trend for the last four to six years means that we’re only going to see more of this success in the future,” Diamond said.

Jared Whalen can be reached at

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