Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Degree Name

Master of Public Administration

Executive Summary

Kentucky has been steadily growing in its bachelor degree holder production over the past ten years, with almost 4500 more college degree holders produced per year in 2010 than in 2000. The literature has shown that this is good news for the economic growth prospects of the state, because a more highly skilled work force means a higher potential for production. This newly educated workforce, however, will not help Kentucky to grow if they take those skills elsewhere.

Using five-year American Community Survey data for Kentuckians over the age of 17, I was able to determine that Kentucky is not a brain drain state, but has actually been able to attract an estimated 2,930 college degree holders net of those lost to other states. Then, by breaking the state down into Public Use Microdata Areas, I was able to find patterns of loss or gain in human capital regionally. The golden triangle region of the state was not only the most saturated but also the most successful in attracting college degree holders.

If the literature about matching is correct, then policy makers should continue and even enhance current policy aimed at increasing degree production and workforce development, if they wish to attract more high-skilled labor. This is because the theory on matching posits that regions with higher preexisting levels of human capital are better at attracting more highly skilled labor. Also, attention should be given to the state migration patterns evident in this study, with regards to the loss of college degree holders to southern states, and the gain of college degree holders from the bordering states to the north.