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Institutionalized Inequality and Brain Drain: An Empirical Study of the Effects of Women's Rights on the Gender Gap in High-Skilled Migration


  • Naghsh Nejad, Maryam

    () (IZA)


This paper investigates the effects of institutionalized gender inequality, proxied by a women's rights index, on the female high-skilled migration rates relative to that of male (the female brain drain ratio). By developing a model of migration choice I find non-linear effects of gender inequality on the female brain drain ratio as a result of effects of gender inequality on both costs and benefits of migration. At low levels of women's rights, increases in the index lead to increases in the female brain drain ratio. This is consistent with, at low levels of women's rights, prohibitively high costs of migration for females. Once a certain level of protections has been afforded to them, the costs to migration are low enough that many women then decide to leave the oppressive society and migrate where the benefits associated with their human capital are higher. However, as women's rights continue to strengthen, those benefits to migration then tend to decrease. The effect on female brain drain then turns negative. Using a panel of up to 195 countries I find evidence consistent with this model which is robust to instrumental variable approach. A one-point increase in the above average level of this index is associated with an average of about a 25-percentage point decrease in the female brain drain ratio.

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  • Naghsh Nejad, Maryam, 2013. "Institutionalized Inequality and Brain Drain: An Empirical Study of the Effects of Women's Rights on the Gender Gap in High-Skilled Migration," IZA Discussion Papers 7864, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7864

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ruyssen, Ilse & Salomone, Sara, 2018. "Female migration: A way out of discrimination?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 224-241.
    2. Nejad, Maryam Naghsh & Young, Andrew T., 2016. "Want freedom, will travel: Emigrant self-selection according to institutional quality," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 45(S), pages 71-84.
    3. Amjad Ali & Nooreen Mujahid & Yahya Rashid & Muhammad Shahbaz, 2015. "Human Capital Outflow and Economic Misery: Fresh Evidence for Pakistan," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 124(3), pages 747-764, December.
    4. Ferrant, Gaëlle & Tuccio, Michele, 2015. "South–South Migration and Discrimination Against Women in Social Institutions: A Two-way Relationship," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 240-254.
    5. Maryam Naghsh Nejad & Andrew T. Young, 2014. "Female Brain Drains and Women's Rights Gaps : A Gravity Model Analysis of Bilateral Migration Flows," Working Papers 14-10, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
    6. Elveren, Adem Yavuz & Toksöz, Gülay, 2017. "Why Don’t Highly Skilled Women Want to Return? Turkey’s Brain Drain from a Gender Perspective," MPRA Paper 80290, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    high skilled female migration; women's rights; institutional quality;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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