Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Boomerang Day

A recent World Bank economic development report, "Reshaping Economic Geography" begins with the US Thanksgiving story. 35 million people get into cars or hop on planes in order to make the journey home. This annual boomerang migration is used as an indicator of economic prosperity. The dramatic brain drain is good for the nation. The World Bank then lays out some policy prescriptions that would allow developing countries to foster increasing geographic mobility within their borders.

Internationally, brain drain is also good ... for the entire world. The global economy grows faster with more talent migration. This pattern scales well, from the local on up. In the United Kingdom, we have one story and two headlines:

See if you can match the article passage quote with the headline:

For those leaving the country, Australia, Poland, Germany, Spain and France had been the most popular countries to head to in 2008, the ONS said.

That year saw the highest number of people emigrate since 1991, the first year with comparable records.

The ONS said there had been a large increase in the number of people emigrating for work-related reasons, particularly those with a fixed job to go to.

And ...

The number of non-Britons leaving the country has risen by 50% from 169,000 in 2007 to 255,000 last year.

Home Office minister Phil Woolas said the figures showed immigrants were coming to the UK to work and then returning home.

I'll give you a hint. Which passage (and headline) sounds more nativist? I see the same slant in the States concerning brain drain. Highlighting the out-migration makes for the more sensational headline. The obsession of the people leaving often glosses over all the people who are coming. Massage the numbers to suit your preferred narrative. Submit your policy recommendation.

I'm guilty of the same deception. Akin to the World Bank, I take the perspective that brain drain offers an opportunity and that it should be encouraged. In the UK story, I see workers returning home to Poland, bringing back experience and a more global network. Polish prosperity is sure to follow.

Happy Boomerang Day!

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