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The Brain Drain. A Survey of the Literature


  • Pierpaolo Giannoccolo


This paper reviews the theoretical and empirical literature on Brain Drain (BD). We propose an ideal path that links the first studies with the most recent ones. In this development, the literature on BD focuses on a variety of economic and social issues and recalls to national and international debates. This paper uses more than 350 articles from a variety of sources. The sources are specialized professionals journals, internet research engines, governmental publications and newspapers. In the first section we analyse the main motivations of the researchers to study the BD and we propose an ideal path to interpret this literature. In the second section we analyse the different definitions of the BD and we show that the BD is a wide and complex phenomenon. In the third section we analyse the historical roots of the BD by identifying the BD “ante litteram”. In the fourth section we analyse the “geography” of the BD. Finally, in the fifth section we analyse both some important topics linked to the BD (International Organizations, Population and Research), both the economics models that study the BD.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierpaolo Giannoccolo, 2004. "The Brain Drain. A Survey of the Literature," Working Papers 20060302, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, Dipartimento di Statistica, revised Mar 2006.
  • Handle: RePEc:mis:wpaper:20060302

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Parsons, Christopher R. & Skeldon, Ronald & Walmsley, Terrie L. & Winters, L. Alan, 2007. "Quantifying international migration : a database of bilateral migrant stocks," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4165, The World Bank.
    2. Luca Marchiori & I-Ling Shen & Frédéric Docquier, 2013. "Brain Drain In Globalization: A General Equilibrium Analysis From The Sending Countries' Perspective," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(2), pages 1582-1602, April.
    3. Dan Ben-David, 2009. "Soaring Minds: The Flight Of Israel'S Economists," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 27(3), pages 363-379, July.
    4. Agrawal, Ajay & Kapur, Devesh & McHale, John & Oettl, Alexander, 2011. "Brain drain or brain bank? The impact of skilled emigration on poor-country innovation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 43-55, January.
    5. Ali, Showkat & Carden, Giles & Culling, Benjamin & Hunter, Rosalind & Oswald, Andrew J & Owen, Nicola & Ralsmark, Hilda & Snodgrass, Natalie, 2007. "Elite Scientists and the Global Brain Drain," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 825, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    6. Cristina Cattaneo, 2009. "International Migration, the Brain Drain and Poverty: A Cross-country Analysis," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(8), pages 1180-1202, August.
    7. Schiff, Maurice, 2005. "Brain Gain: Claims about Its Size and Impact on Welfare and Growth Are Greatly Exaggerated," IZA Discussion Papers 1599, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Gibson, John & McKenzie, David, 2011. "The microeconomic determinants of emigration and return migration of the best and brightest: Evidence from the Pacific," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 18-29, May.
    9. Kristina A. Schapiro, 2009. "Migration and Educational Outcomes of Children," Human Development Research Papers (2009 to present) HDRP-2009-57, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), revised Oct 2009.
    10. Richard B. Freeman, 2006. "People Flows in Globalization," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 145-170, Spring.
    11. McAusland, Carol & Kuhn, Peter, 2011. "Bidding for brains: Intellectual property rights and the international migration of knowledge workers," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 77-87, May.
    12. RosalindS. Hunter & Andrew J. Oswald & Bruce G. Charlton, 2009. "The Elite Brain Drain," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(538), pages 231-251, June.
    13. Jean-Christophe Dumont & Georges Lemaître, 2005. "Beyond the Headlines. New Evidence on the Brain Drain," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 56(6), pages 1275-1299.
    14. Herbst, Mikolaj & Rok, Jakub, 2013. "Mobility of human capital and its effect on regional economic development. Review of theory and empirical literature," MPRA Paper 45755, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. D'Costa, Anthony P., 2006. "The International Mobility of Technical Talent: Trends and Development Implications," WIDER Working Paper Series 143, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

    More about this item


    Brain Drain; International Migration; Human Capital; Growth; Economic Methodology and History of Economic Thought;

    JEL classification:

    • B20 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - General
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • F02 - International Economics - - General - - - International Economic Order and Integration
    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General

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