Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

The elite brain drain

By Rosalind Hunter, Andrew J. Oswald and Bruce Charlton


We collect data on the movement and productivity of elite scientists. Their mobility is remarkable: nearly half of the world’s most-cited physicists work outside their country of birth. We show they migrate systematically towards nations with large R&D spending. Our study cannot adjudicate on whether migration improves scientists’ productivity, but we find that movers and stayers have identical h-index citations scores. Immigrants in the UK and US now win Nobel Prizes proportionately less often than earlier. US residents’ h-indexes are relatively high. We describe a framework where a key role is played by low mobility costs in the modern world

Topics: JV, HB, LB2300
Publisher: Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2009). A theory of brain drain and public funding for higher education in the U.S.’ American Economic Review, doi
  2. (2005). Academic careers, patents, and productivity: Industry experience as scientific and technical human capital.’ doi
  3. (2007). America must not surrender its lead in life sciences.’ Financial Times,
  4. (2009). An assessment of British science over the 20 th century.’ doi
  5. (1982). An economic model of the brain drain.’
  6. (2007). An examination of the reliability of prestigious scholarly journals: Evidence and implications for decision-makers.’ doi
  7. (2005). An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output.’ doi
  8. (1999). Are the foreign-born a source of strength for doi
  9. (2001). Brain drain and economic growth: Theory and evidence.’ doi
  10. (2008). Brain drain and human capital formation in developing countries: doi
  11. (2007). Brain drain, fiscal competition, and public education expenditure.’ IZA paper 2747. IZA Discussion Paper series; Institute for the Study of Labour.
  12. (2005). Brain drain: Migration of academic staff to and from the UK.’ HEPI Paper 19. Higher Education Policy Institute,
  13. (2005). Brain gain: Claims about its size and impact on welfare and growth are greatly exaggerated.’ IZA paper 1599. IZA Discussion Paper series; Institute for the Study of Labour. doi
  14. (2004). Challenges to Globalization: Analyzing the Economics. Chicago: doi
  15. (2000). Citation figures suggest that the UK brain drain is a genuine problem.’
  16. (2005). Creative careers: The life cycles of Nobel laureates in economics.’ Working paper #11799, USA: NBER Working Papers Series doi
  17. (2007). Elite universities and the global brain drain.’ conference paper presented at the
  18. (2001). Exceptional contributions to US science by the foreign-born and foreign-educated.’ Population Research and Policy Review,
  19. (2004). Global estimates of high-level brain drain and deficit.’ doi
  20. (2003). Good colleagues.’ doi
  21. (2005). How much better are the most-prestigious journals? The statistics of academic publication.’ doi
  22. (2007). In praise of the brain drain.’ doi
  23. (2005). Individual and collective determinants of academic scientists’ productivity.’ doi
  24. (1998). International mobility of scientists and engineers to the United States - Brain drain or brain circulation?’ National Science Foundation (June).
  25. (2008). International mobility of the highly skilled, endogenous R&D, and public infrastructure investment.’ IZA paper 3366. IZA Discussion Paper series; Institute for the Study of Labour.
  26. (2001). Language biases in the coverage of the Scientific Citation Index and its consequences for interpretational comparisons of national research performance.’
  27. (2005). Migration currents among the scientific elite.’ doi
  28. (2005). Migration selectivity and the evolution of spatial inequality.’ doi
  29. (1963). Paper series; Institute for the Study of Labour Royal Society
  30. (2006). People flows in globalization.’ doi
  31. (2001). Research and policy issues in high-skilled international migration: A perspective with data from the United States.’ IZA discussion paper 366.
  32. (1991). Research productivity over the life-cycle: evidence for academic scientists.’
  33. (2008). Scale, diversity, and determinants of labour migration doi
  34. (2000). Science, Technology and Industry Outlook doi
  35. (2006). Scientific Information (ISI). Highly Cited Physicists [online]. Available from: [originally accessed
  36. (2007). Scientometric identification of elite 'revolutionary science' research institutions by analysis of trends doi
  37. (2007). Should research performance be measured unidimensionally? Evidence from rankings of academic economists.’ Working paper,
  38. (2007). Some evidence on the future of economics.’
  39. Statistics v.4.2 [online]. Available from: [accessed 18/02/2007].
  40. (2003). Studying the brain drain: Can bibliometric methods help?’
  41. (1995). Tackling the European migration problem’, doi
  42. (2007). Talent wars: the international market for academic staff.’ Policy Briefing,
  43. (1974). The brain drain, international integration of markets for professionals and unemployment: A theoretical analysis.’ doi
  44. (2004). The brain drain: Curse or boon? A survey of the literature.’ doi
  45. (2004). The brain drain: Some evidence from European expatriates in the United States.’ IZA paper 1310. IZA Discussion Paper series; Institute for the Study of Labour.
  46. (1996). The economics of science.’ doi
  47. (2006). The international migration of knowledge workers: When is brain drain beneficial?’ IZA paper 2493. IZA Discussion Paper series; Institute for the Study of Labour. doi
  48. (2000). The Pandora’s box of citation analysis: Measuring scientific excellence – The last evil?’ in Cronin and Atkins
  49. (2000). The Web of Knowledge. doi
  50. (1934). The World as I See it. English translation, Carol Publishing Group Edition
  51. (2000). UK economics and the future supply of academic economists.’ doi
  52. (2005). What determines the citation frequency of ecological papers?’ doi
  53. (2008). Where do the brainy Italians go?’, IZA paper 3325. IZA Discussion Paper series; Institute for the Study of Labour.
  54. (2009). World-leading research and its measurement.’ Warwick Economics Research Paper #887.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.