Brain drain is something that has worried economists and politicians in nearly every country for decades. More formally known as “human capital flight,” it is when skilled, educated, and talented workers leave one country for better opportunities elsewhere. Developed countries are afraid that, for tax reasons, their best workers will go elsewhere. Developing countries are worried that they will never be able to reach their full potential if their intellectual capital is fleeing for greener pastures.

This is a legitimate concern. Human capital, more than resources or geography, is the most important factor in growth. Minerals can’t just flee a country, and barring catastrophic geographic disasters or war, you aren’t going to lose ports or access to a river. But people can go. Two rising powers, India and China, have long been worried about the effect of human capital flight.

This has often been a worry for people looking to study in the USA. Especially for countries like India and China, who are making their way in the world, many students feel like they are abandoning their country, and contributing to the brain drain that has hindered growth. However, as we’d like to show, the opposite is actually true. Studying in the USA is actually one of the most powerful ways you can reverse the effects of human capital flight.

Brain drain graph

Not many people leave the United States, but that doesn’t always have to be the case.

Not beholden to the past

We’ll admit that the above graphic doesn’t look positive. After all, it shows that the enormous majority of people from India and China (among other places) stay in the United States after receiving advanced degrees. This is the heart of brain drain- the best and the brightest (or at least the most educated) not using their skills in their home country. But there are a couple of reasons why those numbers shouldn’t be a cause for despair- or why they might even provide hope.

  • An overwhelmed market. It might not make immediate sense, but if more and more people come to America to not just study, but also to work, the job market will eventually become saturated. However, it takes forever for educational trends to catch up with job markets, and so there will still be people becoming educated in the fields of tech, science, and medicine as if the market was still blooming. They will need to go somewhere, and that somewhere will likely be their home countries- especially if those countries, like China and India, are investing heavily in their own well-paying jobs.
  • The mingling of expertise. One of the great benefits of job migration- and there are some– is the coming together of experts from around the world. A brilliant Chinese engineer can find himself sharing an office with an equally brilliant American, Indian, and Egyptian. Before they might communicate through letters, if at all, or by happening across a paper in some obscure and poorly-translated journal. But now all four are together, thanks to capital flight. Their ideas can all improve thanks to the different learning and perspectives each brings, as well as personalities. And that makes a big difference, especially because they can, in fact, go home again.
  • Nothing is set in stone. You see the numbers in the graph. It looks overwhelming. But here’s the thing: those aren’t legally-binding. One of the reasons you are considering starting an education in American schools is because you have a sense of adventure. You’re willing to travel and to take risks and explore, not just other lands, but your own limits. You’ve found there aren’t many. So who says that just because other people stay abroad, you have to as well?

Coming back with knowledge

You can break trends and start new ones. And the knowledge that you have received- from a great education, from meeting experts around the globe, from learning in all sort of different ways- those will all make you a better doctor, engineer, pilot, or whatever it is you dream of being. Far from contributing to brain drain, you will come back more ready to take on the challenges your country faces. You’re the plug that stops the drain. And it begins with a well-prepared study abroad term in America.


The international student experience is both challenging and exciting. Whether you are a student considering studying in America, their parent, the host family, the Head of School, an international coordinator, or even a potential classmate, there are as many opportunities for confusion as there are to learn. The ISPA is here to help bridge that gap, to ensure that this opportunity and adventure is met with the highest level of success.