Research news

Chen Chen: Brain Circulation-The Educational Profile of Return Migrants

Dr. Chen Chen from ADRI recently published her new paper “Brain Circulation: The Educational Profile of Return Migrants” in the international journal Population Research and Policy Review. Chen Chen is the first and corresponding author of this paper. ADRI’s Prof. Guy Abel is also one of the co-authors.​


Countries increasingly compete to attract and retain human capital. However, empirical studies, particularly those of migrants moving back to developing countries, have been limited due to the lack of education-specific migration flow data. Drawing on census microdata from IPUMS, we derive flow data by level of education and age group to quantify the level of return migration and examine the educational and age profile of return migrants for a global sample of 60 countries representing 70% of the world population. We show that return migrants account for a significant share of in-migration flows, particularly in Africa and Latin America, and, in all countries but six, return migrants are more educated than the population in the migrants’ country of birth. Our age decomposition reveals that young adults contribute the most to the positive educational selectivity of return migrants, particularly in Africa and Asia. While this paper does not quantify the net effect of return migration on education levels, it underlines the importance of the human capital contributions of young adult returnees.