Do brain drains retard economic development?
Celia Dugger has an annoying New York Times story entitled, “Study Finds Flight of Educated Workers Affects Poor Nations.” Here’s how it opens: Poor countries across Africa, Central America and the Caribbean are losing sometimes staggering portions of their college-educated workers to wealthy democracies, according to a World Bank study released yesterday. The study’s findings ...
Celia Dugger has an annoying New York Times story entitled, "Study Finds Flight of Educated Workers Affects Poor Nations." Here's how it opens:
Celia Dugger has an annoying New York Times story entitled, “Study Finds Flight of Educated Workers Affects Poor Nations.” Here’s how it opens:
Poor countries across Africa, Central America and the Caribbean are losing sometimes staggering portions of their college-educated workers to wealthy democracies, according to a World Bank study released yesterday. The study’s findings document a troubling pattern of “brain drain,” the flight of skilled middle-class workers who could help lift their countries out of poverty, some analysts say. And while the exact effects are still little understood, there is a growing sense among economists that such migration plays a crucial role in a country’s development. The findings are based on an extensive survey of census and other data from the 30 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes most of the world’s richest nations. The study found that from a quarter to almost half of the college educated citizens of poor countries like Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda and El Salvador lived abroad in an O.E.C.D. country – a fraction that rises to more than 80 percent for Haiti and Jamaica. In contrast, less than 5 percent of the skilled citizens of the powerhouses of the developing world, like India, China, Indonesia and Brazil, live abroad in an O.E.C.D. country. These patterns suggest that an extensive flight of educated people is damaging many small to medium-size poor countries, while the largest developing countries are better able to weather relatively smaller losses of talent, and even benefit from them when their skilled workers return or invest in their native lands, said Fr?d?ric Docquier, a lead researcher for the bank and an economist at the University of Leuven in Belgium.
A few thoughts:
1) Er… has Indonesia been a “powerhouse of the developing world” since 1998? 2) How much of the cause behind brain drains is simple geography? India, China, Brazil, and Indonesia are all quite distant from an OECD country — especially for inland populations. Haiti and Jamaica are quite close. That’s not the only factor (see Mozambique) but it might have been worth a mention. 3) The lead paragraphs make it sound like the brain drain is causing these countries to stay in poverty. This precludes the possibility that there are extant causes — government corruption, weak property rights, segmented capital markets, inadequate investments in primary education — that encouage brain drains and keep countries poor at the same time. Brain drains might be an intervening variable, but I’m unconvinced it’s an underlying cause.
Here’s a link to the actual World Bank report. Go check it out.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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