Today, we at HESA released a paper called: Moving On? How Students Think About Choosing a Place to Live After Graduation, which is based on a 2011 survey of 1,859 students from across the country. Obviously, you should go read the whole thing, but for the time-pressed here are the highlights:
1) Part of the paper’s purpose is to examine the qualities students look for in a place to live. Turns out Richard Florida’s whole shtick about young educated types looking for cities that are “hip” or “creative” may be somewhat wide of the mark; in fact, students’ main priorities in finding a place of residence are access to good jobs, healthcare services, and a low crime rate. Access to cultural events and foodie cultures rank way, way down the list. To put that another way: what young educated people look for in a place to live is pretty much what everyone else looks for.
2) A solid majority of students intend to stay in the province in which they graduated. That said, just over 40% of students are at least open to the idea of moving. However, these students are not evenly distributed. Students in the prairie provinces (including Alberta) are much more open to moving away than are students in British Columbia. And, equally, students are not open to moving just anywhere – of the people open to a move, most have three or fewer potential destination provinces in mind, and are not open to any others (the most commonly-sought destinations are Ontario and British Columbia – Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the least ). Only 7% are genuinely open to a move to pretty much anywhere in the country.
3) Here’s perhaps the most important piece of news: financial incentives for graduates such as the tax credits used by Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick have almost no effect. We asked students what they expected to earn in their first job in the province they were most likely to call home. Then we asked them how much it would take to get them to move to each of the other provinces. For most provinces (BC was the outlier), about a quarter said “nothing could get me to go there” and another 25% said “I’d go for an extra $25,000 or more” (which is really just a polite way of saying “never”). But, intriguingly, between 13% (Manitoba) and 25% (British Columbia) of all students, say they’d move to that province for either no extra money or even a cut in pay – just give them a job and they’d go. The percentage who say they’d move for an extra $2,000 (roughly the value of the tax credits in SK, MB and NB)? About 1%. Move the financial incentive up to $5,000 and you get another 1%. And that’s perfectly consistent, right across the country.
The fact is, students are going to move where they’re going to move. They are either tied to their present spot by networks of friends and family, or they are lured by money, jobs, and prosperity. A couple of thousand bucks, in the grand scheme of things, just doesn’t seem to matter that much.
All of which begs the question: how come more provinces aren’t making like Nova Scotia and ditching these tax rebate programs?