The Microeconomic Determinants of Emigration and Return Migration of the Best and Brightest: Evidence from the Pacific

53 Pages Posted: 30 May 2009 Last revised: 15 Apr 2015

See all articles by John Gibson

John Gibson

University of Waikato; Motu Economic and Public Policy Research

David J. McKenzie

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Date Written: May 29, 2009

Abstract

A unique survey which tracks worldwide the best and brightest academic performers from three Pacific countries is used to assess the extent of emigration and return migration among the very highly skilled, and to analyze, at the microeconomic level, the determinants of these migration choices. Although we estimate that the income gains from migration are very large, not everyone migrates and many return. Within this group of highly skilled individuals the emigration decision is found to be most strongly associated with preference variables such as risk aversion, patience, and choice of subjects in secondary school, and not strongly linked to either liquidity constraints or to the gain in income to be had from migrating. Likewise, the decision to return is strongly linked to family and lifestyle reasons, rather than to the income opportunities in different countries. Overall the data show a relatively limited role for income maximization in distinguishing migration propensities among the very highly skilled, and a need to pay more attention to other components of the utility maximization decision.

Keywords: Brain Drain, Brain Gain, Highly Skilled Migration, Return Migration

JEL Classification: O15, F22, J61

Suggested Citation

Gibson, John and McKenzie, David John, The Microeconomic Determinants of Emigration and Return Migration of the Best and Brightest: Evidence from the Pacific (May 29, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1411659 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1411659

John Gibson (Contact Author)

University of Waikato ( email )

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David John McKenzie

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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