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"Brain drain" is a term used to describe the loss of valuable members of a community. More formally referred to as human capital flight, it is a particular problem in developing countries as well as impoverished communities in the developed world. This frequently means that engineers, doctors, or other highly-skilled individuals who leave Latin American or other countries for the United States or the United Kingdom end up working in low-skill service professions, a phenomenon known as brain waste.
France experienced significant brain drain during the 16th and 17th centuries when Huguenot artisans fled the country to escape being murdered in the streets. Other places said thank you and took in the refugees. Brain drain also occurred during the fall of the Soviet Union, when scientists fled the nationalist conflicts and economic stagnation that typified those nations. Some rulers of the era were well aware of the phenomenon. The then ruler of the Ottoman Empire is quoted as being very delighted when the Spanish and Portuguese royal houses decided to throw out the Sephardic Jews who were (at least by the standards of the time) received with open arms into the Balkan territories of the Ottoman Empire.
In the present
Brain drain is an issue in developing countries, where those individuals who overcome immense hardships to become educated end up leaving their homeland for wealthier nations with greater opportunities. This ends up creating a vicious circle of poverty, as those with the skills to improve the situation end up leaving, maintaining the status quo. On the other hand remittances of those people are a significant economic factors and some businesses could not have been founded without the seed money of someone who emigrated to send money back to her extended family in the old country.
Native American communities
Brain drain is also used by Native practitioners of Native religions to represent the loss of the important holy people and healers from the reservations and community centers to the great white New Age world, where the affluent will pay exorbitant sums for "native wisdom." As a result, native communities are left with no religious leaders, leading to the potential extinction of traditional languages and cultures.
- Manuel Cardona, Werner Marx. The disaster of the Nazi-power in science. Scientometrics 64(3), 2005. pgs. 313-324.