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Eight Questions about Brain Drain

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  • John Gibson
  • David McKenzie

Abstract

The term "brain drain" dominates popular discourse on high-skilled migration, and for this reason, we use it in this article. However, as Harry Johnson noted, it is a loaded phrase implying serious loss. It is far from clear that such a loss actually occurs in practice; indeed, there is an increasing recognition of the possible benefits that skilled migration can offer both for migrants and for sending countries. This paper builds upon a recent wave of empirical research to answer eight key questions underlying much of the brain drain debate: 1) What is brain drain? 2) Why should economists care about it? 3) Is brain drain increasing? 4) Is there a positive relationship between skilled and unskilled migration? 5) What makes brain drain more likely? 6) Does brain gain exist? 7) Do high-skilled workers remit, invest, and share knowledge back home? 8) What do we know about the fiscal and production externalities of brain drain?

Suggested Citation

  • John Gibson & David McKenzie, 2011. "Eight Questions about Brain Drain," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 107-128, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:25:y:2011:i:3:p:107-28
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.25.3.107
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.25.3.107
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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