International Student Mobility: Growth and Dispersion
Recent years have seen an unprecedented growth and geographic dispersion in international student mobility. In this paper, we empirically test the predictions of two competing theoretical models underpinning the determinants of student mobility – the human capital model and the migration model – across traditional and emerging destinations. Our findings suggest that while the predictions of the migration model are generally valid in explaining student emigration to non-English speaking OECD destinations, student flows to English speaking countries and emerging economies are largely in line with the predictions of the human capital model. The growing dispersion of international students to emerging economies and continuing large flows to English speaking countries are therefore indicative of the rising demand to acquire tertiary skills and much less of the desire to migrate for permanent settlement.
The authors are grateful to C. Simon Fan, Ettore Recchi and Martin Ruhs for their extremely helpful comments and suggestions. Mauro Lanati thanks Stiftung Mercator for financial support under project number PN 14-297. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.