OK, now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll point out the obvious and confirm that the above picture is not from Trinidad. It is, however, one zip code over from the old stomping grounds of Vincent Chase and the boys. More relevantly, it’s in the middle of one of the largest Trinidadian communities in North America.
So, yeah, this post is about emigration. The World Bank estimates that 361,596 Trinidadians live outside the two islands. That number is so precise as to be obviously false, but it’s what we got. Anyway, of that number, 55 percent live in the U.S. of A. (another 14 percent live in Canada), and of those who live in the United States, 13 percent live in Queens. (Another 26 percent, of course, live in Brooklyn. Yeah, Brooklyn!)
What can I say about the Trinidadian-born population of the United States? 68 percent of them are Afro-Trinidadian, 9 percent Indo-Trinidadian, and 4 percent Euro-Trinidadian, with the rest “mixed.” The median household income is $40,168, or 90.4% of the median for the white native-born population. Median full-time male wages are $33,000, or 90.0% of the U.S. median, while the same number for Trini females is $28,933 . . . or 108.3 percent of their native-born sistern. Only 18 percent of Trini-Americans over age 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Man, that bored even myself. A (slightly) more interesting discussion below the fold.
As part of its development plan, the Trinidadian government has established a new engineering school, the University of Trinidad and Tobago. The idea was to meet the energy and heavy manufacturing sector’s burgeoning demand for skills, insure that Trinidad remains at the forefront of mining and energy technology, give the country the resources it needs to create new technologies, and contribute to the development of energy-consulting businesses on the island that could export their expertise elsewhere.
UTT’s mission statement puts it better:
To be an entrepreneurial university designed to discover and develop entrepreneurs, commercialise research and development, and spawn companies for wealth generation and sustainable job creation towards the equitable enhancement of the quality of life of all individuals, families and communities of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean.
It’s exactly what Norway did after it discovered oil with the establishment of the Norwegian Technical University and Rogaland Regional College. Brilliant!
Trinidad, you see, has an excellent primary and secondary school system, but only 12 percent of the Trinidadian population graduates from university. How then can 18 percent of the Trinidadian-born population of the U.S. be university-educated? Well, the logical implication is pretty clear: college-educated Trinidadians must be more likely to leave than their fellow citizens. In fact, a 1998 study tried to estimate the migration rate for newly-minted graduates, and concluded that 57 percent of all university-educated Trinis wound up living abroad. Considering that Gulf companies are making skilled energy workers million dollar (T&T dollars, but still) salary offers, this could be trouble for the country’s development plans.
In the short term, there’s no worry. Salaries for workers in Trinidad will rise, and that’s a good thing. The problem comes if you believe that the country’s best route to remaining prosperous after the gas runs out is to develop companies that can export their knowledge about the energy business rather than the energy itself. The more that those people wind up working in the USA or the UAE, the harder that road to development will be. The money that Trinidadian taxpayers spend in sending more of their children to university will make Queens Village an even nicer place, but won’t do a lot for Trinidad.
In some countries, remittances can provide a large source of income, but not in Trinidad. Remittances in 2005 came to all of $87 million, about $72 per person. This is not a lot for a country as rich as T&T.
But does it really matter? A business that invests in training worries about retention—after all, it doesn’t make sense to spend the money unless you can get a return on the investment. A family does not. A family invests in its children and then sends them out into the world. It’s a nice thing if they visit occasionally, and it’s a great thing if they’ll pay your rent on a condo in Miami, but that’s not the point. Having them go out to where their opportunities are greatest is the point.
So, is a country more like a business or a family?