The “Brain Gain” Hypothesis: Third-World Elites in Industrialized Countries and Socioeconomic Development in their Home Country (Working Paper #47)

Uwe Hunger, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and University of Muenster – Germany

Introduction: The basic idea of the “brain gain” hypothesis is, that intellectual and technical elites from the Third World who emigrated to an industrialized country represent a potential resource for the socioeconomic development of their home country. To date, development and migration theories state that the emigration of elites from developing countries has almost exclusively negative impacts on the Third World. This loss of important intellectual and technical resources is labeled with the catchword “brain drain”. By modernization theory as well as by dependence theory this “brain drain” is considered to be one of the most important causes of the under-development in the Third World. The “brain gain” hypothesis expands this perspective by predicting long-term positive effects in case of a return or network building processes of the emigrated Third World elites. In addition, the new hypothesis attempts to show how such a resource loss (”brain drain”) can be converted into a long-term resource profit (”brain gain”) for the developing country. Thus, “brain drain” is not seen as the (dead) end of a negative development that intensifies the economic and social crises of developing countries. Instead, it is considered a temporary stage within a long-term process with the possibility of a final resource profit for the developing country.

Working Paper #47»