The Consequences of Brain Drains in Developing Countries

“They say there is a brain drain. Let these decayed brains flee. Do not mourn them, let them pursue their own definitions of being. … Don’t be concerned. They should escape. [Iran] is not a place for them to live any more. These fleeing brains are of no use to us. Let them flee. If you know that this is no place for you, you should flee too.
– Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini [English, Farsi]

Recently, Steve wrote that he was surprised I had not addressed brain drains (the flight of the educated elite from less productive to more productive countries) before. So in this small post, I will. Specifically, I will address the Brain Drain among developing countries, using as examples Ethiopia, China, and Iran.

Intelligence is heritable. When living standards are relatively close, about 50% of variation in intelligence is explained by genetics, about 10% by home environment, and about 40% by “individual differences” (in statistical jargon, the error term). In the United States, where standard of living that much of home environment is itself driven by genetics, intelligence seems to be 70% heritable. In poor countries with large class differences, however, home environment counts for a lot. This matters because the more of intelligence that is explained by genetics in a country, the worse the long term consequences of the brain-drain will be.

Thus, the brain drain has minimal long-term consequences for Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a largely agricultural, tribal-based society where individual differences in intelligence doesn’t determine much. You are much more likely to be well fed and have children with wives/mistresses if you are well connected than if you are smart. The intellegentia of Ethiopia is largely determined by political connections, not DNA.

Likewise, the brain drain has minimal long-term consequences for China. Among other reasons, China is a huge country that has a greater population than Europe and the Western Hemisphere combined. A statistically important fraction of China’s population is simply unable to leave, as the loss of even .02% of China’s population would be enough to double the population of Canada. And even apart from this, China has about 900,000,000 peasants who struggle to survive, let alone achieve the higher education that marks one as intelligent.

However, the brain drain has drastic long-term consequences for Iran. Iran’s descent system of public education allows most Iranians a fair shake at greatness. Iran’s objective college entrance tests root out corruption and nepotism in the admissions process. In all likelihood, 50% of the variation in intelligence is heritable in Iran, just as it is in other modern countries.

Every year more than 150,000 educated young people leave Iran for countries such as the U.S. and Canada. Some 4 million Iranians now live abroad.” At this rate, within a decade 10% of Iran’s population will no longer live in Iran. Unless a massive flight back to Iran takes place, these expatriates and their families will become assimilated into western society and join the rest of the melting pot, losing a desire to return to the old country.

It would be an exaggeration to say that the top 10% of Iranians will have left… But perhaps not much of one to say that a third of the top 30% will have fled. While the drop in Iranian fertility will allow more of society’s resources to be focused on fewer children, the genetic loss the brain drain causes will be around for generations. Low intelligence is behind much of Africa’s problems of state-failure and institutionalized misery. The longer the brain drain continues in Iran, the dimmer Iran’s future will be.

In conclusion: The Brain Drain presents long-term troubles as it reduces the genetically factors that lead to high intelligence. This is only a problem in states where living standards are comparable and good systems exist to educate the general population. Iran’s successes in providing a decent life and good educational possibilities for its citizens make her future worse than those of her more corrupt fellow states.

Independence Day

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands, which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


The Longest Serving of All American Flags

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain Inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.


Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let the Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness of his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

* New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
* Massachusetts: Samuel Adams, John Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
* Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
* Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
* New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
* New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
* Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
* Delaware: George Read, Caesar Rodney, Thomas McKean
* Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
* Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
* North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
* South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
* Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton