Brain drains, brain gains and economists

Provoked or stimulated by a piece on migration on  Owen Barder’s blog, referencing a piece on the AidWatchers blog, I’ve stuck my oar in. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while.


Challenging the borders-up mentality prevalent in many developed countries certainly gets my vote (although the benefits of immigration in the rich world do tend to go to rich people, which complicates matters). And it’s good to question the conventional wisdom that the out-migration of skilled people is always bad for developing countries. But ….

… installing another generalisation – that brain export is good for developing countries – is not a good idea.

Whether migration is good or bad for development (or poverty reduction) depends on how context – in this case the specifics of the place of origin and place of destination – shapes the nature of migration, the costs and benefits it generates, and the distribution of those costs and benefits. Not rocket science is it?

This is what the report on migration and development I did for the UK Parliament several years ago said, a report which – despite being on a hot potato political issue – had the support of a cross-party committee of MPs. (I fondly remember the chair of the committee talking about the report on  TVand sounding more of a global socialist than his conservative constituents would have thought possible!)

My oar is more comprehensively stuck in here

At some point I might rant about economists (OK, some economists …) and their enthusiasm for making context-free generalisations that conform to their models! Or maybe I should set up an Economist-watch web-site to complement the Bill Easterly-watch one.

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