Louisiana Outmigration NOLA.com Op-ed (Dana Eness)

This op-ed on Louisiana outmigration by Urban Conservancy Executive Director Dana Eness was recently published on NOLA.com

Click here to read the original op-ed on NOLA.com

Humans crave predictability. We at least know when hurricanes are coming; the unforeseen disasters are even more unsettling. Think BP oil spill, last year’s drought and saltwater wedge and, perhaps most disturbing, the recent collapse of the home insurance industry.

For some — young families, recent retirees — they’ve done the math and can’t square the income and expense sides of the ledger. They’re departing for places where they can get ahead, or at least keep up.

Texas is gaining Louisianans for obvious economic reasons. Starting salaries when adjusted for the cost of living for high-demand jobs like teachers and nurses, for example, are thousands of dollars more than they are here. The average household income in Louisiana is about two-thirds of what it is elsewhere. If you can move across a state line and come out further ahead while staying close enough to visit friends and family, many will and are.

The flip side to outmigration is the lack of “inmigration.” Louisiana remains overly reliant on extraction industries like petrochemicals and tourism. People don’t bend over backward to move to a place like Louisiana with a highly compromised environment in the best of times. Gov. Jeff Landry should welcome the immigrants who are interested in moving to Louisiana to contribute to its economic growth, rather than threatening them with deportation. Louisiana needs in-migration.

Our other major extractive industry is tourism, which translates into an overabundance of low-income and highly portable service sector jobs. It’s easy to take those skills where the cost of living is lower and the minimum wage is higher than $7.25.

For those of us committed to staying here and contributing to a more sustainable future for Louisiana, we have to create the predictability we crave.

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