Canadian Social Research Links

The Brain Drain

Sites de recherche sociale au Canada

L'exode des cerveaux

Updated February 1, 2012
Page révisée le 1er février 2012

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Brain drain - from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Human capital flight, more commonly referred to as "brain drain", is the large-scale emigration of a large group of individuals with technical skills or knowledge. The reasons usually include two aspects which respectively come from countries and individuals. In terms of countries, the reasons may be social environment (in source countries: lack of opportunities, political instability, economic depression, health risks, etc.; in host countries: rich opportunities, political stability and freedom, developed economy, better living conditions, etc.). In terms of individual reasons, there are family influence (overseas relatives), and personal preference: preference for exploring, ambition for an improved career, etc.

Revisiting Canada’s Brain Drain:
Evidence from the 2000 Cohort of Canadian University Graduates
(PDF - 168K, 15 pages)
By David Zarifa and David Walters
Existing studies on Canada’s brain drain have established the importance of income gains as a critical factor that motivates individuals to move to the United States. It remains unclear, however, how sizable the earnings gap may be for recent post-secondary graduates and whether or not this gap varies by the field of study of the most common drainers. Drawing on the most recent National Graduates Survey (NGS), this study compares the early labour market earnings of the 2000 cohort of university graduates who remained in Canada to their counterparts who obtained employment in the United States. Our results indicate that only a small proportion of this cohort migrated south of the border, yet the great majority of these migrants are heavily concentrated in only a few knowledge-economy fields. Annual earnings are significantly higher for all individuals who relocated to the United States. Moreover, these differences are most salient among undergraduate engineers and computer scientists.

[David Zarifa is with the Department of Sociology, McMaster University. David Walters is with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology,
University of Guelph. ]

Canadian Public Policy
Canadian Public Policy is Canada's foremost journal examining economic and social policy. The aim of the journal is to stimulate research and discussion of public policy problems in Canada.

The Brain Drain : Myth and Reality
– What It Is and What Should Be Done (PDF)
January 2001
Working Paper 13

Queen's University School of Policy Studies

Brain drain? That's so nineties
By Peter Calamai
January 12, 2008
Just a decade ago Canadians watched what seemed like a relentless poaching of the country’s top minds. Now the trend is being reversed thanks to the Canada Research Chairs program. Even so, the lauded program is not without its critics.
The Toronto Star

From Statistics Canada :

Emigration from Canada to the United States from 2000 to 2006
By Patrice Dion and Mireille Vézina
July 13, 2010
In the late 1990s, studies showed that a growing number of the most qualified Canadian workers were leaving Canada to work in the United States. This article looks at whether this trend has continued in recent years. Using a relatively new data source, the American Community Survey (ACS), this article examines Canadian emigration to the United States. More specifically, it examines demographic and socio-economic characteristics of those who migrate to the United States.
HTML version

March 13, 2008
Study: Canadians living abroad, 2004
By Margaret Michalowski and Kelly Tran
Canadian emigration abroad is just as selective as incoming migration to Canada, according to a new report published today in Canadian Social Trends. The report, "Canadians abroad," focuses on emigrants who went to five countries: Australia, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States, using data on immigration provided by those countries.
HTML version
PDF version
(149K, 9 pages)

Canadian doctoral graduates who moved to the United States
Canada, like most industrialized countries, is faced with an aging population and an expected shortage of skilled workers in some professions. Thus, a possible exodus of highly-educated workers or the threat of a “brain drain” not only out of the country, but also out of the labour market remains an important policy issue.
Section 4 of the report entitled
Expectations and Labour Market Outcomes
of Doctoral Graduates from Canadian Universities

By Louise Desjardins and Darren King
This report examines the expectations and labour force outcomes of a recent doctoral graduating class by drawing from two different data sources that surveyed the same individuals at two different points in time. The first is the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED), which interviewed the doctoral graduates at the time of their graduation in 2005. The second source is the National Graduates Survey (NGS), which interviewed them again in 2007.

International Mobility:
Patterns of Exit and Return of Canadians, 1982 to 2003
(PDF file - 365K, 61 pages)
November 2006
by Ross Finnie

June 2000
Brain drain and brain gain:
part II, the immigration of knowledge workers to Canada
(PDF file - 78K, 14 pages)

May 2000
Brain drain and brain gain:
part I, the emigration of knowledge workers from Canada
(PDF file - 158K, 20 pages)

Google Web Search Results : "canada, brain drain"
Google News search Results : "canada, brain drain"

Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP)
Go to the IRPP home page and do a search on "brain drain" for dozens of links to articles about the movement of workers to and from Canada.

Brain Drain, Brain Gain
Session Proceedings
PDF version (33 pages, 169K)
[no HTML version]
May 25, 2000
Presented by The Maytree Foundation and The St. Lawrence Centre Forum
There is an intense media focus on the brain drain from Canada to the United States. At the same time, Canada is experiencing a largely unrecognized brain gain of skilled and qualified immigrants. This movement of human capital has significant implications for Canada’s values, cultures and institutions. Yet much of the public debate about the issue is based on misperceptions and incomplete information.
- In the interest of separating fact from fiction and encouraging informed discussion, The Maytree Foundation sponsored a public forum on Brain Drain, Brain Gain at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto on May 25, 2000. Four expert panelists were asked to address the following key questions:
· Is the brain drain to the US a significant problem?
· How are other countries coping with their brain drain?
· How can we make the best use of the talent that comes to our country?

Maytree Foundation
(Canadian charitable foundation)

Canada's "Brain Drain" a trickle, not a flood: New StatsCan report on immigration/emigration shows we gain as much brain as we drain
June 7, 2000
Richard Shillington
Source: Straight Goods

Canadian Human Capital Transfers: The United States and Beyond
Fall 1998
(PDF file, 45 pages, 160K)
C.D Howe Institute

Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIAR)
The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research spans a country and connects with the world to initiate and conduct basic research in the natural and social sciences. CIAR links some of the best Canadian and international research minds in dynamic networks that often include unanticipated and innovative combinations of  disciplines to collaborate on large questions from fresh perspectives. It constitutes Canada's research university without walls, creating communities of scholars from different places and divergent fields who are working at the frontier of knowledge and generating new insights.

Early Years Study : The Final Report - Reversing the Real Brain Drain
PDF file - 1330K, 207 pages
April 1999

The preparation of this report was funded by the Ontario Children’s Secretariat


Who's right? You be the judge.

Canadian taxes are too high:.

Canadian taxes are not too high:


Canada's Tax Regime Drives Out "Scarce Skills,'' Nortel Networks CEO Says
Need to plug brain drain highlighted at annual shareholders' meeting 
April 29, 1999 
Canada Newswire
"Tax makes all the difference.''

Brain drain will ruin Canada: Nortel boss: 'Wealth producers are leaving'
Karyn Standen 
The Ottawa Citizen
November 13, 1999 
"... the "U.S. dollar's worth 47 per cent more than the Canadian dollar. Then the top marginal tax rate in the United States just moved from $283,000 to $285,000. Canada's top rate starts at $65,000 Canadian, or $42,000 U.S. So in Canada, you are wealthy at $42,000 U.S. In America, you're wealthy at $285,000 U.S." 
.Tax surprise: Most of us pay less than Americans
In Canada, it's only the better off who fork out more
By Rosemary Speirs 
Feature writer 
November 6, 1999 
Toronto Star 
"Statistics Canada took a look at what Canadians and Americans have left in their pockets in a 1998 study. (...) Roughly half of Canadian families had disposable incomes in 1995 that gave them higher purchasing power than otherwise comparable U.S. families.'' 

Behind the Brain Drain hype
February 13, 1998
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
"Most university-educated people moving to the U.S. are leaving (Canada) either because they cannot find work in their chosen fields, or because they can earn more money in the U.S. In the latter case, higher remuneration in the U.S. is generally more significant than lower personal taxes. The reality is the private sector and universities in the U.S. are prepared to pay, for some professionals, much more than their counterparts in Canada. The debate about taxes is, for the most part, irrelevant."

The Canadian Standard of Living: 
Is There a Way Up?
Pierre Fortin 
C.D Howe Institute
1999 Benefactors Lecture
October 19, 1999 
"Monetary, tax, and innovation policy key to raising Canadian living standards, says C.D. Howe study
Canadians are underemployed, overtaxed, and underproductive, says Pierre Fortin, one of Canada's foremost economists, in the C.D. Howe Institute's annual Benefactors Lecture, delivered in Montreal today. Fortin urges a three-pronged strategy to close the gap between Canadian and US living standards and ensure Canadian prosperity in the future." (Excerpt from the news release) 
Full report (PDF file, 525K)

IRPP Policy Options - September 1999
- includes a number of articles examining both positions on the brain drain issue.

Canadian Human Capital Transfers: The United States and Beyond
Fall 1998 
(PDF file, 45 pages, 160K)
C.D Howe Institute
.The "crisis" of high taxes is a phony crisis
Murray Dobbin 
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Ten Tax Myths (PDF file, 238K) 
October 1999 

"Which Canadians are overtaxed? All, or just some? Overtaxed compared to what and whom? Other countries? Does it mean we are overtaxed compared to what we get for our taxes? Compared to what we used to pay in taxes? Overtaxed in relation to the revenue we need for good public services? Or might it mean, if we actually examine the situation, that low-income Canadians are overtaxed compared to wealthy Canadians and large corporations? This deceptively simple statement that we are overtaxed is designed to make people jump to the simple answer: lower "our" taxes. Such a solution ignores all the above questions about public services, tax fairness, and the overall objectives of a tax system." (Ten Tax Myths)



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