2004 March 18 Thursday
Iran Has Highest Rate Of Emigration Brain Drain

In the United States supporters of high levels of immigration attempt to obscure the difference between immigrants with less ability and less skill versus immigrants with high higher levels of ability and of training and skills. Yet when one looks at the concerns of analysts in other countries that experience a net outward migration inevitably the biggest topic of concern of countries experiencing out net losses of population due to migrations are concerned about the "brain drain".

Iran has the highest rate of "brain drain" in the world. That's the conclusion of the International Monetary Fund, which recently surveyed some 61 countries. The IMF says every year more than 150,000 educated Iranians leave their home country in the hope of finding a better life abroad.


Amanollah Gharayi Moghadam, a professor of sociology in Tehran, agrees. He says many young people are forced to leave because society cannot absorb them and respond to their needs. "Based on our research, the most important cause for brain drain from Iran is unsuitable social conditions for the youth. There are several factors contributing to this unsuitable atmosphere."

The costs of the brain drain are high. Local sources put the economic loss at some $50 billion a year or higher. "For each inventor or scientist who leaves the country, it is as if 10 oil wells had been destroyed," Moghadam says.

Afshin Molavi is a journalist and author of "Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran." Molavi cites economic conditions as a main reason young people choose to leave. The unemployment rate is around 20 percent -- and higher for young people. Hidden in the statistics is massive underemployment, with students forced to take jobs below their qualifications.

I've been watching "Brain Drain" stories in the world press daily for months now using Google News (just click on the previous link to get a sense of it) and there is on big recurring theme: fear of the loss of the most talented members of a society. A typical editorial from Nairobi Kenya is entitled How to Stop Brain Drain. An article from Nigeria has Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar blaming Brain Drain on something called the Structural Adjustment Programme. An editorial from Nigeria is entitled Stemming the brain-drain tide. A report released in South Africa claims the brain drain in South Africa is 4 times larger than government estimates.

The Brain Drain fears are not limited to Africa and Iran. Even Kiwis in New Zealand worry about brain drain while the French worry about the brain drain of their top scientific talent and so do the Germans. There are even fears of brain wars in Europe as richer countries buy up the talent of poorer countries and raise the specter that the gap between the countries in living standards could become permanent. A United Nations agency even seeks to provide money to poorer states to allow them to retain their top agricultural scientists and technicians.

There is one big sign in the Brain Drain stories that suggests Americans ought to be worried about our current immigation policies. A search of Google News on "Brain Drain Mexico" never seems to turn up any stories that indicates the elites of Mexico are worried that they are losing many talented people in spite of the millions of Mexicans who have headed north into the United States. Unfortunately, that lack of concern is fairly rational. First of all, Mexican immigrants to the US have an average of 8th grade educations. Even fourth generation descendants of the Mexican immigrants as a group do very poorly in American schools (see the last line of table at the end of that post). Barely half of all Hispanics in the United States graduate from high school. The result is that immigration is increasing the supply of less skilled workers several times more rapidly than it is increasing the supply more highly skilled workers. With two thirds of Mexican immigrants high school and grade school drop-outs Mexico is clearly not being brain drained. Therefore the Mexican opinion makers are correct not to be worried about the loss of so many people from their country as those people leave every day to go to the United States.

We will know that US immigration policy has been fixed when Mexican and other Latin American opinion-makers start complaining about the brain-drain of their most talented people to the United States.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 March 18 09:45 PM  Immigration Brain Drain

abdollah mahmoodi said at April 1, 2004 8:11 PM:

If you have any statistics a bout Iranian brain drain to OECD
pleas send me , Im work a bout this problem

eli said at April 30, 2005 12:25 AM:

I want statistics about braindrain frome iran to usa (1985-2004)

Ignoramus said at June 28, 2005 7:34 PM:

Don't they hang "adulterers" from construction cranes in Iran?

M.robinson said at July 21, 2005 6:23 AM:

[Don't they hang "adulterers" from construction cranes in Iran?]

NO, the last hangings by crane was for Rapists(some who murdered their victims as well), as rape and murder carry the death penalty in Iran.

Randall Parker said at July 21, 2005 10:23 AM:


In Iran they bury women up to their heads and stone them to death for adultery.

I'd rather be hung from a crane. It'd be quicker and less painful.

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