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

  • Gibson, John


    (University of Waikato)

  • McKenzie, David


    (World Bank)

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 Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3926.

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Length: 53 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Development Economics, 2011, 95 (1), 18-29
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3926
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  1. Jaeger David A. & Dohmen Thomas & Falk Armin & Huffman David & Sunde Uwe & Bonin Holger, 2008. "Direct Evidence in Risk Attitudes and Migration," ROA Research Memorandum 011, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
  2. P. Giannoccolo, 2004. "The Brain Drain. A Survey of the Literature," Working Papers 526, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  3. 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).
  4. Belot, Michèle & Hatton, Timothy J., 2008. "Immigrant Selection in The OECD," CEPR Discussion Papers 6675, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. 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.
  6. George J. Borjas & Bernt Bratsberg, 1994. "Who Leaves? The Outmigration of the Foreign-Born," NBER Working Papers 4913, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. 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.
  8. Abdeslam Marfouk, 2007. "Brain Drain in Developing Countries," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 21(2), pages 193-218, June.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Dean Yang, 2006. "Why Do Migrants Return to Poor Countries? Evidence from Philippine Migrants' Responses to Exchange Rate Shocks," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(4), pages 715-735, November.
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