From brain drain to the attraction of knowledge in Latin American social sciences

Posted in conference 


Sylvie Didou Aupetit


The heterogeneity of qualitative analyses of the brain drain from Latin America suggests that coherentinformation on this subject is hard to find. There is no consensus when it comes to defining the phenomenon:should it include graduates who have jobs in a different country from their place of origin? Should it onlyconcern those who have a Ph.D? In this paper, we consider the latter. We shall try to demonstrate that, in thecase of the Latin American scientific elites, the move abroad is just one aspect of a much larger phenomenon ofinternational mobility.


Even though the flows of qualified migrants have diversified in terms of their actors and destinations, in Latin America they remain primarily oriented towards the USA. The USA offers numerous job opportunities, competitive wages, a high-quality research system and a good work environment. The existence of close-knit communities facilitates the integration of first-time arrivals. At the regional level, the USA is the most attractive centre for higher learning and graduation. In 2007, a total of 229 Mexicans, 180 Brazilians, 141 Argentinians and 121 Colombians obtained their Ph.D. in the USA.


While Mexico is not representative of Latin America, an analysis of models of academic mobility there points to a growth in the number of short- and long-term multidirectional movements in the social sciences, and in other domains as well. The social sciences do not have irreducible particularities. As in other research areas, brain drain in the social sciences is just one aspect of a wider process that is characterized by a generalization of exchanges both physical and virtual. In order to understand this process, more multidisciplinary comparative and qualitative research will be necessary at the continental level.