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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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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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  2. Frederic, DOCQUIER & Olivier, LOHEST & Abdeslam, MARFOUK, 2007. "Brain drain in developing countries," Discussion Papers (ECON - Département des Sciences Economiques) 2007004, Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques.
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  10. 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.
  11. 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.
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  14. World Bank, 2011. "Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011 : Second Edition," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2522.
  15. Albert Bollard & David McKenzie & Melanie Morten & Hillel Rapoport, 2011. "Remittances and the Brain Drain Revisited: The Microdata Show That More Educated Migrants Remit More," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 25(1), pages 132-156, May.
  16. Michael Clemens & Satish Chand, 2008. "Skilled Emigration and Skill Creation: A quasi-experiment," Working Papers 152, Center for Global Development.
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  19. Michael Clemens, 2007. "Do Visas Kill? Health Effects of African Health Professional Emigration," Working Papers 114, Center for Global Development.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
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  24. 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.
  25. 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).
  26. Dilip Ratha & Sonia Plaza, 2011. "Diaspora for Development in Africa," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2295.
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