This paper investigates the effects of institutionalized gender inequality, proxied by a women's rights index, on the female high-skilled migration rates relative to that of male (the female brain drain ratio). By developing a model of migration choice I find non-linear effects of gender inequality on the female brain drain ratio as a result of effects of gender inequality on both costs and benefits of migration. At low levels of women's rights, increases in the index lead to increases in the female brain drain ratio. This is consistent with, at low levels of women's rights, prohibitively high costs of migration for females. Once a certain level of protections has been afforded to them, the costs to migration are low enough that many women then decide to leave the oppressive society and migrate where the benefits associated with their human capital are higher. However, as women's rights continue to strengthen, those benefits to migration then tend to decrease. The effect on female brain drain then turns negative. Using a panel of up to 195 countries I find evidence consistent with this model which is robust to instrumental variable approach. A one-point increase in the above average level of this index is associated with an average of about a 25-percentage point decrease in the female brain drain ratio.
high skilled female migration women's rights institutional quality