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Elite Scientists and the Global Brain Drain

  • Ali, Showkat
  • Carden, Giles
  • Culling, Benjamin
  • Hunter, Rosalind
  • Oswald, Andrew J

    (Department of Economics, University of Warwick)

  • Owen, Nicola
  • Ralsmark, Hilda
  • Snodgrass, Natalie

There are signs – one is world university league tables – that people increasingly think globally when choosing the university in which they wish to work and study. This paper is an exploration of data on the international brain drain. We study highly-cited physicists, highly-cited bio-scientists, and assistant professors of economics. First, we demonstrate that talented researchers are being systematically funnelled into a small number of countries. Among young economists in the top American universities, for example, 75% did their undergraduate degree outside the United States. Second, the extent of the elite brain drain is considerable. Among the world’s top physicists, nearly half no longer work in the country in which they were born. Third, the USA and Switzerland are per capita the largest net-importers of elite scientists. Fourth, we estimate the migration ‘funnelling coefficient’ at approximately 0.2 (meaning that 20% of top researchers tend to leave their country at each professional stage). Fifth, and against our prior expectations, the productivity of top scientists, as measured by the Hirsch h-index, is similar between the elite movers and stayers. Thus it is apparently not true that it is disproportionately the very best people who emigrate. Sixth, there is extreme clustering of ISI Highly Cited Researchers into particular fields in different universities. Seventh, we debate the questions: are the brain drain and this kind of funnelling good or bad for the world, and how should universities and governments respond?

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File URL: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/workingpapers/2008/twerp_825.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Warwick, Department of Economics in its series The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) with number 825.

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Length: 62 pages
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:825
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Web page: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/

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  1. 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.
  2. McCulloch, Rachel & Yellen, Janet L, 1977. "Factor Mobility, Regional Development, and the Distribution of Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(1), pages 79-96, February.
  3. Bhagwati, Jagdish & Hamada, Koichi, 1974. "The brain drain, international integration of markets for professionals and unemployment : A theoretical analysis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 19-42, April.
  4. 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.
  5. J. Peter Neary & James A. Mirrlees & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Evaluating Economics Research in Europe: An Introduction," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(6), pages 1239-1249, December.
  6. Saint-Paul, Gilles, 2004. "The Brain Drain: Some Evidence from European Expatriates in the United States," IDEI Working Papers 307, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  7. Machin, Stephen & Oswald, Andrew, 2000. "UK Economics and the Future Supply of Academic Economists," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(464), pages F334-49, June.
  8. Michel Beine & Frédéric Docquier & Hillel Rapoport, 2001. "Brain drain and economic growth: theory and evidence," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/10449, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  9. Andrew J. Oswald, 2007. "An Examination of the Reliability of Prestigious Scholarly Journals: Evidence and Implications for Decision-Makers," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 74(293), pages 21-31, 02.
  10. Kwok, Viem & Leland, Hayne, 1982. "An Economic Model of the Brain Drain," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(1), pages 91-100, March.
  11. Kugler, Maurice & Rapoport, Hillel, 2007. "International labor and capital flows: Complements or substitutes?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 155-162, February.
  12. William Carrington & Enrica Detragiache, 1998. "How Big is the Brain Drain?," IMF Working Papers 98/102, International Monetary Fund.
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