In this paper we model the migration decisions of high-skilled women as a function of the benefits associated with moving from an origin with relatively low women's rights to a destination with a relatively high level of women's rights. However, the costs faced by women are decreasing in the level of women's rights provided. The model predicts a non-linear relationship between the relative levels of women's rights in destination versus origin countries (the women's rights gap) and the gender gap in high-skilled migration flows (the female brain drain ratio). In particular, starting from large values of the women's rights gap (where women's rights are very low in the origin) decreases in the gap may be associated with increases in the female brain drain ratio. However, starting from lower levels of the gap the relationship is positive: a greater gain in women's rights moving from origin to destination is, all else equal, associated with a greater likelihood of migration. Using a cross section of over 3,000 bilateral migration flows across OECD and non-OECD countries and the women's rights indices from the CIRI Human Rights Dataset, we report evidence consistent with the theory. A statistically significant and nonlinear relationship exists between women's rights gaps and female brain drain ratios. The evidence is particularly strong for the case of women's political rights.
female brain drain high skilled female migration bilateral migration flows women's rights institutional quality gravity models