Why Do Foreign PhD Students Return Home?
Keywords:Doctoral studies, human capital, migration
Amid concerns about a “brain drain” from less-developed to developed economies, one issue that arises is the role of doctoral students from these countries enrolling in universities in developed economies and then staying (as opposed to returning and bringing their enhanced human capital home). Developed economies may also be concerned with their young scholars remaining abroad post-PhD. Examining confidential micro-data from the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates from 2001-2016, this paper explores the determinants of the return decision, based on a sample of more than 100,000. There is clear support for the view that new PhDs with large amounts of graduate student debt and limited family resources are more likely to return home. Financial considerations seem especially important in the return decision facing students from developing countries not graduating from the most elite US institutions.
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