Canada's "Brain Drain" a trickle not a flood
New StatsCan report on immigration/emigration shows we gain as much brain as we drain
Analyze this, with Richard Shillington
The mainstream headlines are wrong: Canada's brain power is not being sucked south of the border at the speed of light. In fact, a recent Statistics Canada report entitled "Brain Drain and Brain Gain" shows four times as many university graduates entering Canada overall as leaving for the United States.
June 7/00 - The mainstream headlines are wrong: Canada's brain power is not being sucked south of the border at the speed of light. In fact, a recent Statistics Canada report entitled "Brain Drain and Brain Gain" shows four times as many university graduates entering Canada overall as leaving for the United States.
"Emigrants to the United States are more than twice as likely to hold a university degree than are immigrants to Canada," the report says. "However, because of the overall greater number of immigrants, there are four times as many university graduates entering Canada, from the rest of the world, as there are university degree holders of all levels leaving Canada for the United States."
The report goes on to say that the number of master's and doctoral graduates alone - entering Canada from the rest of the world - is equal to the number of university graduates at all levels leaving Canada for the United States.
The data in this table, taken from the report, demonstrate that Canada's current immigration rate is not high by historical standards, and our emigration rate has never been lower.
In summary, the report says that emigration isn't new and what we lose is more than made up for by what we gain.
Granted, some professions, such as doctors and nurses, do have higher emigration rates, but the report shows that overall only about 25,000 Canadian taxpayers leave for the US each year - and only about 1,000 of them have incomes over $100,000
Granted, some professions, such as doctors and nurses, do have higher emigration rates, but the report shows that overall only about 25,000 Canadian taxpayers leave for the US each year - and only about 1,000 of them have incomes over $100,000.
To be fair, the Globe and Mail's recent headlines did reflect this conclusion: "Brain drain?," it wrote, "StatsCan calls it a wash." Fair enough.
Contrast that with the Southam papers.
The Ottawa Citizen headlined only one side of the debate: "Doctors lead brain drain," it claimed. "About 20 head to US for every one moving from US to Canada, Statistics Canada says," wrote another paper. "Brain drain to US getting worse," added another.
The National Post also decided to highlight just one side of the debate: "Canada bleeding MDs, Nurses to US," it said.
As StatsCan points out, the "Brain Drain" phenomenon is not simple. While the typical Canadian, making about $30,000 a year, would not be financially better off in the US, the 1,000 estimated emigrants making more than $100,000 a year probably would be. - (That is, they would pay significantly less in taxes - enough to buy security, a private education and private health insurance.)
What if one accepted for a moment that a few thousand well-educated Canadians (many of them physicians) do prefer the US for some combination of reasons - they prefer the US-style health care system or remuneration or tax system, for instance.
Does that mean we should modify our country's health care system to keep a few hundred physicians on our side of the border? Do we really want to reduce our income taxes by billions of dollars just to keep a few hundred physicians?
What if they just like the idea of living in a country where greed is both a cultural ideal and TV show?
Granted, some emigrants might be leaving to work in a place where research and development is actually done with the latest equipment - that concerns me.
But overall, if some Canadians prefer the US way of doing things, then I wish them well - but I don't want to live in a more northerly US wannabe.
Richard Shillington, Ph.D., is a statistician who specializes in the quantitative analysis of health, social and economic policy. He appears regularly before committees of the House of Commons and the Senate, and frequently provides commentaries for television, radio and newspapers on issues of taxation, human rights and social policy. Richard's Straight Goods column appears weekly.
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