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The International Migration of Knowledge Workers: When is Brain Drain Beneficial?

  • Peter J. Kuhn
  • Carol McAusland

We consider the welfare effects of the emigration of workers who produce a public good (knowledge). We distinguish between the knowledge diversion and knowledge creation effects of such emigration, and show that the remaining residents of a country can gain from emigration, even when tastes for knowledge goods exhibit a kind of 'home bias'. In contrast to existing models of beneficial brain drain (BBD), our results do not require agglomeration economies, education-related externalities, remittances, return migration, or an emigration 'lottery'. Instead, they are driven purely by the public nature of knowledge goods, combined with differences in market size that induce greater knowledge creation by emigrants abroad than at home. BBD is even more likely in the presence of weak sending-country intellectual property rights (IPRs), or when source country IPR policy is endogenized.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12761.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12761
Note: IO ITI LS
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  1. Stark, Oded & Helmenstein, Christian & Prskawetz, Alexia, 1998. "Human Capital Depletion, Human Capital Formation, and Migration. A Blessing in a "Curse"?," Economics Series 55, Institute for Advanced Studies.
  2. Paolo Manasse & Alessandro Turrini, 1999. "Trade, Wages and ´Superstars’," Development Working Papers 127, Centro Studi Luca d\'Agliano, University of Milano.
  3. Trefler, Daniel, 1995. "The Case of the Missing Trade and Other Mysteries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1029-46, December.
  4. Alexander Haupt & Eckhard Janeba, 2004. "Education, Redistribution, and the Threat of Brain Drain," NBER Working Papers 10618, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Wong, Kar-yiu & Yip, Chong Kee, 1999. "Education, economic growth, and brain drain," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 23(5-6), pages 699-726, April.
  6. Jean-Pierre Vidal, 1998. "The effect of emigration on human capital formation," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 589-600.
  7. Gene Grossman & Edwin L.-C. Lai, 2002. "International Protection of Intellectual Property," NBER Working Papers 8704, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Robert H. McGuckin & Robert Inklaar & Bart van Ark & Sean M. Dougherty, 2004. "The Structure of Business R&D: Recent Trends and Measurement Implications," Economics Program Working Papers 04-01, The Conference Board, Economics Program.
  9. Rivera-Batiz, Luis A & Romer, Paul M, 1991. "Economic Integration and Endogenous Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(2), pages 531-55, May.
  10. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economic Benefits from Immigration," NBER Working Papers 4955, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Rodriguez, Carlos Alfredo, 1975. "On the Welfare Aspects of International Migration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(5), pages 1065-72, October.
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