Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A brain drain or human capital flight is an emigration of trained and talented individuals for other nations or jurisdictions, due to conflict or lack of opportunity or health hazards where they are living. It parallels the term "capital flight" which refers to financial capital which is no longer invested in the country where its owner lives and earned it. Investment in higher education is lost when the trained individual leaves, usually not to return. Also whatever social capital the individual has been a part of is reduced by their departure. Spokesmen for the Royal Society of London first coined the expression “brain drain” to describe the outflow of scientists and technologists to the United States and Canada in the early 1950s.
"Brain drain" is a perception that is hard to measure. In 2000, the US Congress announced it was raising the annual cap on the number of temporary work visas granted to highly skilled professionals under its H1B visa program, from 115,000 to 195,000 per year, effective until 2003. That suggests a ballpark figure for the influx of talent into the United States at that time. In the same year the British government cooperating with the Wolfson Foundation, a research charity, launched a £20 million, five-year research award scheme that aimed at drawing the return of the UK’s leading expatriate scientists and sparking the migration of top young researchers to the United Kingdom.
Historically, the greatest brain drains have been from rural to urban areas. In the 19th century and 20th century there were great migrations to North America from Europe, and in modern times, from developing nations to developed nations. Sometimes such drains occur between developed nations, e.g. from Canada to the United States especially in the finance, software, aerospace, healthcare and entertainment industries due to higher wages and lower taxes.
Iraq is said by some to be presently undergoing a "brain drain" due to its political instability.
An opposite situation, in which many trained and talented individuals seek entrance into a country, can be called a brain gain; this may create a brain drain in the nations that the individuals are leaving. A Canadian symposium in 2000 gave circulation to the new term, at a moment when many highly-skilled Canadians were moving to the United States but at the same time many qualified immigrants were coming to Canada. This is sometimes referred to as a 'brain exchange'.
- Mario Cervantes and Dominique Guellec, "The brain drain: Old myths, new realities"
- "Brain Drain: Brain Gain
- How Extensive Is the Brain Drain? An article on the extent of brain drain today
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