Return migration, human capital accumulation and the brain drain

Christian Dustmann*, Itzhak Fadlon, Yoram Weiss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations


In this paper we present a model that explains migrations as decisions that respond to where human capital can be acquired more efficiently, and where the return to human capital is highest. The basic framework is a dynamic Roy model in which a worker possesses two distinct skills that can be augmented by learning by doing. There are different implicit prices, in different countries and different rates of skill accumulation. Our analysis contributes to the literature on the selection of immigrants and return migrants by offering a richer framework that may help to accommodate selection of emigrants and return migrants that are not immediately compatible with the one-dimensional skill model. Our analysis also has implications for the debate on brain drain and brain gain. In the two skills model presented here, return migration can lead to a mitigation of the brain drain, or even the creation of a "brain gain", where those who return bring the home country augmented local skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-67
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Development Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2011


FundersFunder number
Multi-donor Trust Fund on Labor Markets
Norwegian governments
World Bank Group


    • Brain drain
    • Comparative advantage
    • Human capital accumulation
    • Return migration


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