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A deeper look into why Nebraskas are leaving the state

OMAHA, Nebraska (Nebraska) – What do college students think next? Not only on schedule, but also after release. The data shows that more and more people with a bachelor’s degree are leaving Nebraska.

6 News spoke with Dr. Josie Schafer, director of the United Nations Center for Public Affairs Research. The center analyzed census data, labor statistics, and a survey of more than 500 people who left Nebraska and why.

“Every year people come from other states, and every year people leave Nebraska for other states. But more is leaving than coming in,” Schafer said.

The group leaving at the highest speed was with a bachelor’s degree.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number one reason people have left Nebraska in the last year is a new job or transfer to another job. The second reason was that they were married or divorced, and the third was due to other family circumstances.

“Now it has a lot to do with the dynamics of our workforce. Today, we have more low-wage, low-skill jobs in the state. And that’s where the vacancies are. And so a group with a bachelor’s degree or higher is more likely to leave the state because there are more vacancies in other states for high-skilled and high-paying jobs,” she said.

In 2019, the Omaha Chamber of Commerce interviewed 500 people who left Nebraska and asked them why.

It also showed that professional growth was the main reason for the move.

6 News spoke to college students about to graduate about their plans. Employment opportunities and family were the main factors behind the decision.

“Probably from Nebraska,” said Ben Trapp, Jr. “Probably from the Midwest. Or at least a slightly larger city.”

“Probably the best job opportunities there,” Drew Nivoner, another junior. Yes, this is probably the main reason.

“This is where my family lives and I was just born and raised here, so this is where I am staying.” – Jennifer Leyva, High School Student

“I think it’s really just about staying more accessible,” David O’Connell, another alumnus. “For my career, a lot of tech people could go out of state or into other possible specialties, but I think I could do better by staying here. Then, if I want to travel, I go to other places.”

O’Connell hopes to become a high school art teacher and has mentioned that those in STEM might be more inclined towards it.

“These are jobs, especially high-paying jobs, but we don’t have many in Nebraska. This is computer and mathematics, this is life, physical and social sciences, this is architecture and engineering, this is law,” Shafer said.

Schafer said more jobs in the area would help. And while those industries have grown over the past five years and are projected to continue to grow, she said higher education recruitment and retention can help keep this talent in Nebraska.

The Omaha House Poll also asked questions about the reasons why people would and would not like to return to Omaha. Career opportunities, family, salary and professional development will bring them back. Lack of diversity, political climate, weather and taxes will scare them away.

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