Bureau of Business Research


Date of this Version



Business in Nebraska, November 2008, (63)692: 7 pages


Copyright 2008 by Bureau of Business Research


Brain Drain in Nebraska: What do the data show?


Nebraska is a growing state, but it is a slowly growing state. Over the last decade, population growth in Nebraska, at 0.6% per year, has lagged the national average rate of 1.0%. This gap in growth rates is large in real terms. Given a current population of approximately 1.8 million persons, Nebraska would grow by approximately 18,000 persons per year if it grew at the national growth rate of 1.0% per year. Instead, the state only adds about 11,000 persons per year. A lower growth rate results in a loss of 7,000 persons per year in population growth in Nebraska.

There are many reasons for this slower growth. Net migration is among the most important of these reasons. Each year more people move out of Nebraska to live in another state, than move from another state to Nebraska. Thus, while the state receives many new international migrants, the net migration of domestic residents is negative. For example, from 1995 to 2000, approximately 3,000 more domestic residents moved out of Nebraska each year than moved in.

Net migration also has created concerns about “brain drain” because migration is most common among younger residents. Brain drain is partly an issue of out-migration alone: the notion that too many young people leave the state. This is an unhappy outcome for the friends and extended families of the young out-migrants who will bear a higher cost when visiting them. But, it is different than the issue net migration, which reflects both outmigration and inmigration.

Negative net migration (or net outmigration) could represent even larger challenges. In particular, net out-migration of younger people could change the age distribution in Nebraska – leaving relatively few working age people to provide services to a relatively large number of retirees. This issue is one of both inmigration and outmigration – that is, the net change in the number of young people over time due to the rate of both in-migration and out-migration.

In this report, we will examine the trends in net migration in Nebraska, focusing on migration among different age groups and comparing Nebraska with neighboring states. We also will examine the rate of net out-migration in select Nebraska communities, including Omaha.

Statewide Trends

Omaha Metropolitan Area

Smaller Area Comparisons



About the Authors

Bureau of Business Research [BBR]

Specializes in …

  • Studies of economic competitiveness
  • Economic modeling and forecasting
  • Labor market analysis
  • Fiscal analysis
  • Policy analysis