Losing Their Best and Brightest

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Which countries are losing their highly educated? Commonly referred to as a “brain drain,” there is a global worry that countries which lose their highly educated also suffer in their development (OECD). This human capital issue can then be potentially destructive to many developing nations, so where is it happening?

This week’s map looks at where the highly educated are leaving. Highly educated is defined by the Institute of Employment Research as those 25 and older with tertiary education or, “higher than high school leaving certificate or equivalent” (IAB). Emigration rate is determined by number of emigrants divided by total population of resident migrants and natural born citizens of that nation in the given education classification. This data covers 1980 to 2010, and the map changes to show the emigration over each 5-year interval.

Over this time frame, some nations show little change. Developed countries such as the United States, France, Australia, and Japan retain the vast majority of their highly educated adults. Other nations – particularly in the developing world – such as India and Brazil appear to do the same. This is partially explained by the methodology of the data collection, where some of these nations prospective university students go to universities abroad, and are counted as the educated population in the nations where they study. However, in nations such as Afghanistan, where fewer than 5% of the population enrolls in higher education, there is still not much opportunity for these graduates to leave yet.

Contrarily, Africa is constantly changing. Uneven development, near-constant political turmoil in many of its nations, and OECD member states’ tendency to “poach” the brightest students from these countries in important fields such as medicine, leads to significant human capital losses in countries such as Angola, Algeria, Cóte d’Ivoire, and Mozambique.

Moving forward – as markets shift and education changes – the possibility of certain countries retaining over 90% of its college graduates will, too. In Spain for example, an economic crisis has led to one of the most troubling brain drains in Western Europe in the past 10 years. Similarly, some are worried about a potentially impending brain drain in the United States over the next several years.

Covering 1980 to 2010, this week’s map sums up the data in a 14-second gif. Follow continental shifts, noted nations, and learn about the changes in highly educated emigration through thirty years.

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