American Brain Drain: Background information when reading Hillbilly Elegy

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Hillbilly Elegy

A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance X
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2016, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2018, 288 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
Buy This Book

About this Book

American Brain Drain

This article relates to Hillbilly Elegy

Print Review

"Brain Drain," aka "Human Capital Flight" refers to the exodus of educated, professional adults from locations that fail to provide them with the means of achieving success and fulfillment. As a consequence, the communities these individuals leave behind often suffer economic and cultural stagnation. The phrase's origin lies in the emigration of scientists and other intellectuals to America after World War II seeking better employment opportunities. Brain drain is of particular concern in many Rust Belt cities and communities where manufacturing plants have cut back production or shut down entirely, causing the areas' ambitious youth to flee for greener pastures.

J.D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy, notes his own migration from Middletown, Ohio to the state's capital to get his undergraduate degree at Ohio State University, and then onto Yale University for law school. After a rather severe downturn in the 1990s and 2000s, however, things are beginning to look up for some Rust Belt cities suffering from brain drain.

A 2003 report by the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland, and Toledo were among the cities hemorrhaging young, educated individuals. However, a 2015 survey by the Manhattan Institute suggests a turnaround, showing an increase in college degree-holding adults between 2000-2013 in many key Rust Belt cities, including a 37% increase in Pittsburgh, a 23% increase in Cleveland, and 16% increase in Toledo.

The Scarab Lunar Rover developed at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute Part of the increase is attributed to generational advancements, people are simply more likely to hold a college degree today than they were 20 years ago. However, these cities have also been actively attempting to spur progress by enhancing the technology programs in their educational institutions and improving science and medical facilities. The Cleveland Clinic, the robotics program at Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh's computer science program have been particularly successful. There has also been a small resurgence in manufacturing jobs in these areas due to higher wages overseas. These are all excellent incentives for attracting students and educated professionals. Experts in Buffalo cite cheaper rents and better opportunities for small businesses as key elements in attracting educated millennials.

For small towns like Middletown, Ohio however, without flashy colleges and universities or state-of-the-art medical facilities, the solution is elusive. Some areas are looking to counteract the effects of brain drain with improved community college programs, particularly those focusing on sustainable energy and organic farming, both rapidly growing fields. A South Dakota school district launched a program involving beautification projects and internships with local businesses to facilitate attachment and appreciation for the community in the local youth. It remains to be seen how successful these solutions will be.

Picture of Scarab Lunar Rover from NASA/ Carla Cioffi

Filed under Society and Politics

Article by Lisa Butts

This "beyond the book article" relates to Hillbilly Elegy. It originally ran in March 2017 and has been updated for the May 2018 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Yolk
    Yolk
    by Mary Choi
    Mary H.K. Choi's young adult offering Yolk deftly maintains several plotlines running through the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Blizzard Party
    The Blizzard Party
    by Jack Livings
    It is 1978 and the place is New York City. A massive bacchanalian party is taking place at an Upper ...
  • Book Jacket: The Light of Days
    The Light of Days
    by Judy Batalion
    Renia, Sarah, Zivia, Frumka, Hantze, Tosia, Vladka, Chajka, Gusta, Hela, Bela, Lonka, Tema, Chasia, ...
  • Book Jacket: Hummingbird Salamander
    Hummingbird Salamander
    by Jeff VanderMeer
    In Hummingbird Salamander, Jeff VanderMeer weaves cybersecurity, bioterrorism, wildlife trafficking ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Of Women and Salt
    by Gabriela Garcia

    A kaleidoscopic portrait of generations of women from a 19th-century Cuban cigar factory to the present day.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
    by Julietta Henderson

    A charming, uplifting debut about a mother and her 12-year-old son, an aspiring comedian.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Miss Austen
by Gill Hornby
A witty, poignant novel about Cassandra Austen and her famous sister, Jane.
Win This Book!
Win The Beauty of Your Face

A New York Times Notable Book of 2020

"Stunning.… A timely family saga with faith and forgiveness at its core."
Marie Claire

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

It's N S O M N

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.