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5 Take Aways from Richey Piiparinen, Director, the Center for Population Dynamics


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"Population is a bad metric for quality of life, right? You look at some of biggest population growth metros in the state, and they have some of the highest poverty rates and lowest educational attainment rates.

"When you look at the Rust Belt cities ... Boston did it decades ago. Now they're gangbusters, in terms of real estate and income, but they're still hundreds of thousands below their peak population. When Rust Belt cities go through economic restructuring, the indicator of success is never population growth, it's income and appreciation of real estate, that's where it happens.

"Population growth is an effect of needing a lot of people to do a lot of labor. Those days are gone."


"One of the main conduits for immigrants is through higher education. So instead of immigrants coming to America for jobs, they're coming to America to get trained. To go to college, to go to med school.

"What I would say is it's not about attraction, it's about engagement. Leadership Cleveland takes native Clevelanders who are largely tapped into the leadership structure, and they try to re-tap them. Why wouldn't we have a Leadership Cleveland class of foreign born residents? Engaging them into the power structure. What they do is start building networks back home, and those networks build financial capital and investment. It's pretty much word of mouth. That's what ends up being the change – the internationalization of Cleveland."


"Twenty-one percent of Cleveland's immigrants have an advanced degree – that ranks fifth in the nation. By contrast, 11 percent of Clevelanders have an advanced degree. That's a huge difference and important to know. People think of immigrants as migrants crossing the border. Pittsburgh's No. 1 – 36 percent of their immigrants have an advanced degree. Our immigrants are employed in health care and production – high end production.

"So you think about economic restructuring. Old economy, new economy. The immigrants are really the tip of the spear. They're the ones leading Cleveland's economic restructuring. That's important ... even if they don't stay, how do we build a network? Money flows across borders now, in terms of investing in startups and real estate. When you combine two different geographies, it makes for a better knowledge product, because of the heterogeneity of thought."


"Higher ed is becoming a big industry in America. There's a Brookings report that ranks the cities, and Cleveland's not doing that well in terms of immigrant students. Case is doing well, but Buffalo and Pittsburgh have doubled. That's a big initiative, building that infrastructure. The Ohio Board of Regents has an initiative. There's things ready to go." [Note: Ohio had 35,761 foreign students in 2015, eighth in the nation.]


"Seventy-five percent of Ohio residents are born in Ohio. We're sixth worst in the country, close to Birmingham, Alabama. Any newcomer who comes in doesn't have the baggage of Cleveland, and perceives the city in a different way. There's a difference between people from here and not from here – they come in and say, 'Why do you guys think this way?' That's important to have a critical mass of fresh thinking.

"Even boomerangs – think about people who go to live in New York for five years. They might not show up in the birthplace statistics, but they're outside the parochial, woe-is-me Cleveland perspective. They have industry ties, they have network ties on the Eastern Seaboard. So they're important.

"But you have to balance newcomers with immigrant attraction. With Global Cleveland, the boomerangers were kind of creeping into the mission and becoming the mission, when it really should be immigrant attraction and refugees."

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