U.S. losing war for talent? Study offers new insights

A collaborative international study by ETH Zurich, Washington and Stanford universities, and LinkedIn, offers unique insights into global migration patterns among professionals since 2000.

US flag and businesspeople
Examining a period that spanned the first dotcom boom and bust, and the most recent global downturn, researchers Bogdan State, Mario Rodriguez, Dirk Helbing and Emilio Zagheni analysed an anonymised LinkedIn dataset of millions of geolocated career histories, which suggests a sharp drop-off since 2000 in the U.S.'s proportional share of inbound professional workers – particularly from the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sector.The study, Migration of Professionals to the U.S.: Evidence from LinkedIn data, was published earlier this month at the SocInfo conference in Barcelona. While its dataset confirms that the United States remains, in absolute terms, the top destination for international migrants, the research team observed a decrease between 2000-2012 “in the percentage of professional migrants, worldwide, who have the United States as their country of destination."Just over a quarter (27%) of migrating professionals among the sample group chose the U.S. as a destination in 2000, while in 2012 just 13 per cent did.According to the study, this pattern holds for people with bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees alike, and for individuals with degrees from highly-ranked worldwide universities. The U.S. attracted 24 per cent of graduates from the top 500 universities worldwide in 2000, but just 12 per cent in 2012.“The U.S. is still the top destination for migrations, but [the study] shows that this is something that should not be taken for granted,” said co-author Bogdan State, who worked on the study as a Stanford University graduate student alongside co-author Mario Rodriguez, a LinkedIn senior data scientist.Further analysis “reveals the growth of Asia as a major professional migration destination during the past twelve years.” Asian countries saw the highest increase in professional migrants worldwide, attracting a cumulative 26 per cent in 2012, compared with just 10 per cent in 2000.Australia, Oceania, Africa and Latin America also saw their share of the world’s professional migration flows increase.From the initial population of over 200 million LinkedIn users worldwide, the research team in its published study explained how they “extracted the subset of inter-country migration events related to changes individuals’ places of employment, for migrations lasting at least one calendar year between 1990 and 2012.”Although the authors acknowledge the research is limited by unavailable citizenship information, and that LinkedIn users aren’t necessarily representative of the entire population of highly skilled workers, the authors believe it to be the first to monitor global migrations of professionals to the U.S. in this way.

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