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Eight Questions about Brain Drain

  • John Gibson
  • David McKenzie

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?

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.25.3.107
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 25 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 107-28

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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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  1. Frédéric Docquier & Hillel Rapoport, 2011. "Globalization, Brain Drain and Development," Working Papers 2011-18, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
  2. Kugler, Maurice & Rapoport, Hillel, 2007. "International labor and capital flows: Complements or substitutes?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 155-162, February.
  3. Michael Clemens & Satish Chand, 2008. "Skilled Emigration and Skill Creation: A quasi-experiment," Working Papers 152, Center for Global Development.
  4. John Gibson & David McKenzie, 2009. "The Microeconomic Determinants of Emigration and Return Migration of the Best and Brightest: Evidence from the Pacific," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0903, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  5. Bollard, Albert & McKenzie, David & Morten, Melanie & Rapoport, Hillel, 2009. "Remittances and the brain drain revisited : the microdata show that more educated migrants remit more," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5113, The World Bank.
  6. Jeffrey Grogger & Gordon H. Hanson, 2008. "Income Maximization and the Selection and Sorting of International Migrants," NBER Working Papers 13821, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. John Gibson & David McKenzie, 2012. "The Economic Consequences of ‘Brain Drain’ of the Best and Brightest: Microeconomic Evidence from Five Countries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(560), pages 339-375, 05.
  8. Mattoo, Aaditya & Neagu, Ileana Cristina & Özden, Çaglar, 2008. "Brain waste? Educated immigrants in the US labor market," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 255-269, October.
  9. Dilip Ratha & Sonia Plaza, 2011. "Diaspora for Development in Africa," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2295.
  10. Michel Beine & Frédéric Docquier & Hillel Rapoport, 2007. "Measuring international skilled migration: a new database controlling for age of entry," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/10411, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  11. Jasso, Guillermina & Rosenzweig, Mark R., 2008. "Selection Criteria and the Skill Composition of Immigrants: A Comparative Analysis of Australian and U.S. Employment Immigration," IZA Discussion Papers 3564, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Abdeslam Marfouk, 2007. "Brain Drain in Developing Countries," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 21(2), pages 193-218, June.
  13. Cécily Defoort, 2008. "Tendances de long terme des migrations internationales : analyse à partir des six principaux pays receveurs," Population (french edition), Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED), vol. 63(2), pages 317-351.
  14. Ozden, Caglar & Parsons, Christopher R. & Schiff, Maurice & Walmsley, Terrie L., 2011. "Where on earth is everybody ? the evolution of global bilateral migration 1960-2000," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5709, The World Bank.
  15. Spilimbergo, Antonio, 2006. "Democracy and Foreign Education," CEPR Discussion Papers 5934, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Clemens, Michael A., 2009. "Skill Flow: A Fundamental Reconsideration of Skilled-Worker Mobility and Development," MPRA Paper 19186, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  17. Javorcik, Beata S. & Özden, Çaglar & Spatareanu, Mariana & Neagu, Cristina, 2011. "Migrant networks and foreign direct investment," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 231-241, March.
  18. Bhagwati, Jagdish & Hamada, Koichi, 1974. "The brain drain, international integration of markets for professionals and unemployment : A theoretical analysis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 19-42, April.
  19. World Bank, 2011. "Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011 : Second Edition," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2522.
  20. Bhargava, Alok & Docquier, Frédéric & Moullan, Yasser, 2011. "Modeling the effects of physician emigration on human development," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 172-183, March.
  21. Eliakim Katz & Hillel Rapoport, 2005. "On human capital formation with exit options," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 267-274, 06.
  22. Michael Clemens, 2007. "Do Visas Kill? Health Effects of African Health Professional Emigration," Working Papers 114, Center for Global Development.
  23. David McKenzie & Hillel Rapoport, 2010. "Self-Selection Patterns in Mexico-U.S. Migration: The Role of Migration Networks," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 811-821, November.
  24. Desai, Mihir A. & Kapur, Devesh & McHale, John & Rogers, Keith, 2009. "The fiscal impact of high-skilled emigration: Flows of Indians to the U.S," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 32-44, January.
  25. David McKenzie & Hillel Rapoport, 2011. "Can migration reduce educational attainment? Evidence from Mexico," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 1331-1358, October.
  26. Alok Bhargava & Frédéric Docquier, 2008. "HIV Pandemic, Medical Brain Drain, and Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 22(2), pages 345-366, May.
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