MPIDR Working Paper

Sub-national disparities in the global mobility of academic talent

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2023-038, 25 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (September 2023)
Open Access


The migration of scholars has been often studied across countries, however, these studies have rarely focused on sub-national regions. We used data on 28+ million Scopus publications of 8+ million unique authors and geo-coded the affiliation addresses. Our results show that by focusing on the sub-national regions, the share of mobile scholars increases from 8% to 12.4%. We found that in all continents when a sub-national region is attractive for international migrants, it is also attractive for internal ones. The reverse is not true, though. For most continents, a depopulation is happening where scholars move abroad and their position is filled by scholars arriving from other sub-national regions inside the country. In the US, as an example, states in the mid-eastern area have the highest net rate of scholars leaving for other destinations inside the US, mostly on the west coast. In Europe, multiple countries show a similar trend that more developed provinces receive scholars from internal origins and send scholars to international destinations. Our results have implications for the global circulation of academic talent by adding more nuance to the generally accepted image of brain drain and brain gain. We highlight the interrelation between internal and international migration, specifically for regions constantly losing their academic workforce.

Keywords: World, internal migration, international migration, migration
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.