Adams, Richard H. Jr.
While the level of international migration and remittances continues to grow, data on international migration remains unreliable. At the international level, there is no consistent set of statistics on the number or skill characteristics of international migrants. At the national level, most labor-exporting countries do not collect data on their migrants. Adams tries to overcome these problems by constructing a new data set of 24 large, labor-exporting countries and using estimates of migration and educational attainment based on United States and OECD records. He uses these new data to address the key policy question: How pervasive is the brain drain from labor-exporting countries? Three basic findings emerge: With respect to legal migration, international migration involves the movement of the educated. The vast majority of migrants to both the United States and the OECD have a secondary (high school) education or higher. While migrants are well-educated, international migration does not tend to take a very high proportion of the best educated. For 22 of the 33 countries in which educational attainment data can be estimated, less than 10 percent of the best educated (tertiary-educated) population of labor-exporting countries has migrated. For a handful of labor-exporting countries, international migration does cause brain drain. For example, for the five Latin American countries (Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica and Mexico) located closest to the United States, migration takes a large share of the best educated. This finding suggests that more work needs to be done on the relationship between brain drain, geographical proximity to labor-receiving countries, and the size of the (educated) population of labor-exporting countries.