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The Microeconomic Determinants of Emigration and Return Migration of the Best and Brightest: Evidence from the Pacific

  • John Gibson


    (University of Waikato and CGD)

  • David McKenzie


    (World Bank, BREAD, CReAM, and IZA)

A unique survey which tracks worldwide the best and brightest academic performers from three Pacific countries is used to assess the extent of emigration and return migration among the very highly skilled, and to analyze, at the microeconomic level, the determinants of these migration choices. Although we estimate that the income gains from migration are very large, not everyone migrates and many return. Within this group of highly skilled individuals the emigration decision is found to be most strongly associated with preference variables such as risk aversion, patience, and choice of subjects in secondary school, and not strongly linked to either liquidity constraints or to the gain in income to be had from migrating. Likewise, the decision to return is strongly linked to family and lifestyle reasons, rather than to the income opportunities in different countries. Overall the data show a relatively limited role for income maximization in distinguishing migration propensities among the very highly skilled, and a need to pay more attention to other components of the utility maximization decision.

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Paper provided by Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London in its series CReAM Discussion Paper Series with number 0903.

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Date of creation: Jan 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:crm:wpaper:0903
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  1. Jaeger, David A. & Bonin, Holger & Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David B. & Sunde, Uwe, 2007. "Direct Evidence on Risk Attitudes and Migration," IZA Discussion Papers 2655, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Simon Commander & Mari Kangasniemi & L. Alan Winters, 2004. "The Brain Drain: Curse or Boon? A Survey of the Literature," NBER Chapters, in: Challenges to Globalization: Analyzing the Economics, pages 235-278 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Belot, Michèle & Hatton, Timothy J., 2008. "Immigrant Selection in The OECD," CEPR Discussion Papers 6675, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Dean Yang, 2004. "Why Do Migrants Return to Poor Countries? Evidence from Philippine Migrants’ Responses to Exchange Rate Shocks," Working Papers 513, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  5. Michel Beine & Frédéric Docquier & Hillel Rapoport, 2007. "Measuring International Skilled Migration: A New Database Controlling for Age of Entry," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 21(2), pages 249-254, June.
  6. Michel Beine & Frederic Docquier & Hillel Rapoport, 2006. "Measuring International Skilled Migration: New Estimates Controlling for Age of Entry," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0613, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  7. Borjas, George J & Bratsberg, Bernt, 1996. "Who Leaves? The Outmigration of the Foreign-Born," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(1), pages 165-76, February.
  8. Grogger, Jeffrey & Hanson, Gordon H., 2011. "Income maximization and the selection and sorting of international migrants," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 42-57, May.
  9. McKenzie, David & Rapoport, Hillel, 2007. "Self-selection patterns in Mexico-U.S. migration : the role of migration networks," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4118, The World Bank.
  10. Abdeslam Marfouk, 2007. "Brain Drain in Developing Countries," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 21(2), pages 193-218, June.
  11. P. Giannoccolo, 2004. "The Brain Drain. A Survey of the Literature," Working Papers 526, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  12. Beine, Michel & Docquier, Frédéric & Schiff, Maurice, 2008. "Brain Drain and its Determinants: A Major Issue for Small States," IZA Discussion Papers 3398, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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