Business, College of


Date of this Version



"International Knowledge Flows and Technological Advance: The Role of International Migration." A Dissertation. University of Nebraska - Lincoln. 2012.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Economics, Under the Supervision of Professor Hendrik van den Berg. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Kacey Nicole Douglas


Immigration is a major aspect of globalization. As the world becomes increasingly integrated, it becomes important to learn more about the effects of immigration on global economic growth. According to Robert Solow’s long run growth model, technological advance is the only form of economic growth sustainable in the long run. Those who contribute to technological advance – highly skilled labor – however, increasingly emigrate from lesser developed to more developed countries in a process known as brain drain. This process has been shown to lead to a permanent increase in income and growth in the host country relative to the source country. This paper investigates whether brain drain migration can lead to technological advance in the source country. More specifically, do migration flows to the United States (US) lead to knowledge from the US?

To answer this empirically, I use a proxy for technology flows and regress it on immigration and other control variables. Technology flows are measured as the number of forward citations a US patent receives from inventors in a given sample country during a given year. The sample contains thirteen countries over the years 1995-2010. Given the characteristics of the data, a fixed-effects Poisson distribution model was applied to conduct the regression analysis.

The immigration was found to be positive and statistically significantly related to technology flows. The result is fairly robust for different regression specifications; all but one model show that the effect of immigration is statistically significant and all of the models show the effect to be positive. These results support the hypothesis that brain drain migration leads to technology flows back to the source country. Although my sample countries are considered economically developed, there is evidence to suggest they too suffer from brain drain migration to the US. Thus, the results found are significant and relevant for the sample countries analyzed in the paper.

Advisor: Hendrik van den Berg