Many world regions, including Europe, have the perception that their best students and researchers leave to study and work in the United States. This phenomenon has been coined ‘the elite brain drain’. With a sample of European students who obtain a PhD in economics in the US, we study whether the most promising among them are indeed less likely to return. We find that PhD recipients from top institutes, or with a highly cited advisor, or a pre-PhD publication or a higher impact factor on their first publication are more likely to stay in the US or Canada at a top institute. This indicates that the quality of the working environment is of crucial importance to top researchers, and that the attraction of the US consists in a big part in its many top economics departments. The location choice made for the first job strongly predicts the location of the current job. Once a top researcher has made the decision to stay, particularly at a top institute, the probability of his or her return becomes very small. This suggest that from the European perspective, there is indeed an ‘elite brain drain’, as its most talented researchers, once embedded in the North American research system, are not very likely to return.
That is from a paper by Bouwel and Veugelers (January 2012). The data of PhD graduates is from 2006. I wonder if this has changed since - not very likely. What is happening with graduates from India, China, Mexico, Brazil?