Thursday, April 12, 2012

Massachusetts Talent Economy And Brazil

Put your chips down on Boston. If I'm right about the emerging Talent Economy, then I should be able to predict which metros will benefit from the transition. I'm on the lookout for migration connections between mature markets (slow growth) and developing markets (fast growth). Lucky New York City is linked to everywhere. Boston, on the other hand, commands a strategic flow of brain circulation (to sharpen the point about talent geopolitics) with Brazil:

[Brazilian President Dilma] Rousseff will also visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

Massachusetts already has strong ties to Brazil. In 2011, Massachusetts exported $450 million in goods and services to Brazil. And according to a new report by The Immigrant Learning Center, there are more immigrants living in Massachusetts that were born in Brazil than in any other country.

I first got wind of Boston's relationship with Portugal from Anthony Bourdain's show "No Reservations" (the best thing on television concerning globalization). Back in 2009, Demography Matters detailed the Brazilian migration (here and here). Now, Brazil is aggressively exporting talent to support its spectacular growth:

Selling her country’s technological prowess and booming IT market was the main order of business for Dilma Rousseff at a big trade fair in Hanover on March 5th. But Brazil’s president made sure to pose for photographs with young compatriots who last month began to study at German universities under her government’s new scholarship programme, Science Without Borders.

By the end of 2015 more than 100,000 Brazilians—half of them undergraduates, half doctoral students—will have spent a year or so abroad at the best universities around the world studying subjects such as biotechnology, ocean science and petroleum engineering which the government regards as essential for the nation’s future. That will cost 3 billion reais ($1.65 billion), a quarter of which will come from businesses and the rest from the Brazilian taxpayer.

Exactly. Brazil is investing in brain drain. Tax payer money is being used to underwrite the exodus. Getting back to Boston, Brazilians studying at MIT beget Massachusetts trading with Brazil. Whether the graduates stay or go back home is of little consequence. Beantown fretting about brain drain is comical. Brazil understands the Talent Economy. Boston doesn't.


The Urbanophile said...

There are more people born in Brazil living in metro Boston than in metro New York, LA, Chicago, Bay Area, etc. Boston contains 16% of all Brazilian born people in the US. I'm not sure I'd use that as a reason to pile all my chips on Boston though.

Jim Russell said...

I'm not sure I'd use that as a reason to pile all my chips on Boston though.

I've been exploring migration connectivity as a key metric of economic development. I'm interested to learn about why you wouldn't use the Brazilian demographic as an indicator of future growth and prosperity. In other words, why do you urge caution?

The Urbanophile said...

I mean, it's a good thing for Boston, I'd say. But Boston is a huge city and a Brazilian immigration axis doesn't necessarily mean the entire region will do well. Pretty much ever city can cherry pick data elements that are in their favor. On the whole, IIRC Boston is possibly the least diverse of America's large tier one historic cities.

Jim Russell said...

I don't think I'm cherry picking positive data. I contend the Brazilian churn is much more important than you allow. Regardless, I've got to figure out how this talent circulation impacts the regional picture. We agree it is a good thing, but disagree about how good.

Randy McDonald said...

Much depends on the continued success of Brazil (and, I suppose, other Lusophone countries). A prosperous Brazil is a better partner for Boston than a stagnant or declining one. Is prosperity a better bet than not? And what else does Boston have to fall back on if not?

Noel Maurer said...

My wife and I live in ground zero of the migration, which gives us precisely zero authority to say anything other than where to get mean capirinhas and bad strip steak. But ...

I think you need data on the human capital of the emigrants and the content of the state's exports before making a conclusion. There are lots of Brazilians here, true, but it isn't clear that they create trade or investment linkages with the madre patria. I'll add that Brazilians assimilate remarkably fast, even for a country known for fast assimilation.

Harvard and MIT, I should point out, get a lot of students from a lot of places. My Brazilian students overwhelmingly go home. Now, I teach about energy, so they would ... but I'm not sure I'd conclude they produce a long- term benefit for the metropolitan economy.

My question for you, then, is what data is relevant for your theory beside the simple fact of migration?

Rafael H M Pereira said...

Brazilian grad students will certainly stay for short periods, 1 year at most (there is a legal requirement for them to come back). Anyway, I tend to agree when you say "Whether the graduates stay or go back home is of little consequence".

I am not sure, however, if this scholarship programme could significantly increase the number of Brazilians in Boston.