Brain drain

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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,Wikipedia it is a particular problem in developing countries as well as impoverished communities in the developed world. In the worst case scenarios, it 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.[1]

The most recognizable brain drain occurred pre-World War II, where Jewish and friendly scientists escaped Nazi Germany and ultimately were instrumental in the defeat of the Axis powers.[2] (Gee, it's like basing your national identity on bigotry makes your nation weak.)


France experienced significant brain drain during the 16th and 17th centuries when Huguenot artisans fled the country to escape being murdered in the streets.Wikipedia 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.[3] 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.[4]

In the present[edit]

Developing countries[edit]

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 factor, 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.[5]

United States[edit]

Rural and conservative states[edit]

In the United States, higher-educated rural people have a tendency to migrate to cities (especially in the Northeast or on the West Coast) and less-educated rural people have more of a tendency to remain where they are (partly because cities are more expensive to live in). This has been noted as a contributing factor to the country's political polarization (higher-educated people being more likely to vote for Democrats).[6][7] The shift has been dramatic enough that educated professionals are leaving rural areas more quickly than they are ever replaced.[8]

Much of rural America consists of "education deserts", i.e. stretches of land where there is no college institution anywhere nearby.[9][10] These are the areas with the biggest brain drain issue, as according to Bloomberg, the "rural counties that punch far above their weight" in terms of college graduate population tend to be "places that are home to knowledge institutions, like federal labs or universities, or significant arts and cultural scenes, or stunning natural amenities."[7] Overall, the portion of both rural and urban Americans who hold a college degree has risen, but the gap between the two has widened at the same time.[7][10][11] Student loan debt appears to be a factor, with recent graduates seeking higher-paying jobs in their field, those being better available in cities.[11]

There is likely to be a sort of domino effect occurring. Rural college attendance has dropped, and so funding has too, leading rural colleges to cut majors (especially in the humanities).[12][13] Conservative social policy also appears to be causing medical professionals to flee certain states — Idaho is a stellar example — and remember, educated people leaving causes political polarization to increase, so it's not hard to imagine that we are looking at a vicious cycle here.[14][15][16]

Native American communities[edit]

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.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  2. Manuel Cardona, Werner Marx. The disaster of the Nazi-power in science. Scientometrics 64(3), 2005. pgs. 313-324.
  6. Dan Boylan (May 13, 2019). "'Brain drain' from poor states widens political divide". The Associated Press. The Washington Times.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Richard Florida (October 31, 2018). "The Talent Dividend in Urban and Rural Areas". CityLab. Bloomberg.
  8. (May 8, 2019). "Middle America's brain drain". The Economist. (Archived).
  9. Paul Fain (June 27, 2019). "Race, Geography and Degree Attainment". Inside Higher Ed.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Adam Harris (July 1, 2019). "The Education Deserts of Rural America". The Atlantic. (Archived).
  11. 11.0 11.1 Aimee Picchi (January 21, 2019). "Rural America's 'brain drain': How student debt is emptying small towns". Moneywatch. CBS News.
  12. Jason Fuller, Lee Hale, and Sarah McCammon (December 28, 2022). "Why some rural universities are dropping dozens of programs". All Things Considered. NPR.
  13. Jon Marcus (December 16, 2022). "Rural universities, already few and far between, are being stripped of majors". The Hechinger Report.
  14. Kelcie Moseley-Morris (March 17, 2023). "Idaho hospital to stop delivering babies. One reason? 'Bills that criminalize physicians'". The Idaho Statesman.
  15. Jessica Glenza (July 8, 2022). "Pregnant women face increasingly dangerous risks as doctors flee punitive US states". The Guardian.
  16. Christopher Rowland (August 6, 2022). "A challenge for antiabortion states: Doctors reluctant to work there". The Washington Post. (Archived).