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How extensive is the brain drain?

This article estimates the extent of migration, by level of education, from developing countries to the United States and other OECD countries. While it is clearly difficult to measure precisely the flow and levels of education of immigrants the authors summarise a study they conducted covering migration from 61 developing countries.

The study found that over half of those migrating to OECD countries headed to the United States, and that for most countries, people with a tertiary education have the highest migration rate. Assessing brain drain to other OECD countries is much more difficult, as the statistics available do not record the level of education. But they found — with various assumptions and exemptions — that the extent of the brain drain to OECD members is substantial, particularly from Iran, Korea and the Philippines.

The authors conclude that their results suggest that in several developing countries the outflow of highly educated individuals is a phenomenon that policy makers cannot ignore. But they say that more research, especially empirical studies, is needed to evaluate the impact of the brain drain on source economies and on worldwide welfare, as well as the reasons for such migration.

 

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