Global Talent Flows

by Sari Pekkala Kerr, William R. Kerr, Çağllar Özden, and Christopher Parsons

Overview — Global migration patterns have become increasingly asymmetric and skewed along several dimensions, especially as skilled migration has become a greater force globally. This paper first surveys the landscape of global talent mobility, including under-appreciated features like the rising importance of the migration of talented women. The review next discusses the causes and consequences of high-skilled migration and the particular role of agglomeration/cluster economies. Rather than having migration reduce the incentives for others to migrate to a location, agglomeration effects for talented workers often serve to instead heighten the incentives for future talent to migrate as well (e.g., Hollywood). The paper next discusses the role of national “gatekeepers” in global talent flows, and contrasts the two main approaches taken by governments (i.e., points-based systems vs. employer-driven systems). While overall patterns will likely remain similar, different forms of high-skilled migration are likely to emerge and evolve.

Author Abstract

The global distribution of talent is highly skewed and the resources available to countries to develop and utilize their best and brightest vary substantially. The migration of skilled workers across countries tilts the deck even further. Using newly available data, we first review the landscape of global talent mobility, which is both asymmetric and rising in importance. We next consider the determinants of global talent flows at the individual and firm levels and sketch some important implications. Lastly, we review the national gatekeepers for skilled migration and broad differences in approaches used to select migrants for admission. Looking forward, the capacity of people, firms, and countries to successfully navigate this tangled web of global talent will be critical to their success.

Paper Information