Who comes back and when? Return migration decisions of academic scientists

Patrick Gaulé*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The net welfare benefit of the 'brain drain' of skilled workers depends on their propensity to return to their home countries. Yet, relatively little is known empirically about the return migration decisions of skilled workers. Here, I study a sample of 1460 foreign faculty in research-intensive US universities, using publicly available academic records to reconstruct career histories and create a longitudinal panel. Return occurs early in the career and is responsive to changes in income per capita in the source country. The evidence on the effect of ability on the decision to return is mixed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-464
Number of pages4
JournalEconomics Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I thank Ruchir Agarwal, Pierre Azoulay, Christian Catalini, Iain Cockburn, Tom Cunningham, Mette Foged, Josh Lerner, Fiona Murray, Mario Piacentini, Paula Stephan and Scott Stern for insightful comments, discussions and advice. This paper also benefited from comments from conference and seminar participants at MIT Sloan, Mines Paris Tech and the 2013 CESifo junior immigration workshop. All errors are mine. I acknowledge financial support from the National Bureau of Economic Research Innovation Policy and the Economy Fellowship .


  • Brain drain
  • High-skilled migration
  • Scientists
  • Universities


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