, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 603–630 | Cite as

The Gravity of High-Skilled Migration Policies



Combining unique, annual, bilateral data on labor flows of highly skilled immigrants for 10 OECD destinations between 2000 and 2012, with new databases comprising both unilateral and bilateral policy instruments, we present the first judicious cross-country assessment of policies aimed to attract and select high-skilled workers. Points-based systems are much more effective in attracting and selecting high-skilled migrants than requiring a job offer, labor market tests, and shortage lists. Offers of permanent residency, while attracting the highly skilled, overall reduce the human capital content of labor flows because they prove more attractive to non-high-skilled workers. Bilateral recognition of diploma and social security agreements foster greater flows of high-skilled workers and improve the skill selectivity of immigrant flows. Conversely, double taxation agreements deter high-skilled migrants, although they do not alter overall skill selectivity. Our results are robust to a variety of empirical specifications that account for destination-specific amenities, multilateral resistance to migration, and the endogeneity of immigration policies.


High-skilled immigration Human capital Immigration policy 



The research presented in this article is part of the Drivers and Dynamics of High-Skilled Migration (DDHSM) project, which received generous funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Grant 2011-10-22) and KNOMAD. The authors would like to thank Laurin Janes, Sebastien Rojon, Farhan Samanani, and Lena Wettach for nothing short of exemplary research assistance. We are grateful to attendees of the DEMIG Conference, Wolfson College, Oxford, September 2014; the Drivers and Dynamics of High-Skilled Migration Workshop, Oxford Martin School, October 2014, in particular Rey Koslowski, Çağlar Özden, and Martin Ruhs; the IRES Research Seminar, Université Catholique de Louvain, February 2015, especially Frédéric Docquier and David de la Croix; and finally to the participants of the 8th International Conference on Migration and Development, World Bank, June 2015. This article also reflects comments by three anonymous reviewers received through the KNOMAD peer review process and benefited from editing by Sherrie Brown as well as two anonymous referees during the Demography peer review process.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for International Development, International Migration InstituteOxford UniversityOxfordUK
  2. 2.Economics Discipline, UWA Business SchoolThe University of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

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