One of the points I see made quite a bit among critics of freer immigration is that the social impacts (like brain drain, for example) would be just too severe. One of the rebuttals I often run across is that critics like that don’t think in the long term. They assume that any change will be devastating and permanent, when most of the time changes are temporary and their devastating consequences greatly exaggerated.

What’s happenning in India then, seems to be a good illustration of this point; while there may have been brain drain for a while, in the end, a lot of people go home. And they do so with good educations and perhaps as people better prepared to help their country culturally, educationally, economically.

From the Guardian:

Between 1964 and 2001 (when the economy was sluggish), 35 per cent of the nation’s most promising graduates moved abroad, according to research conducted by the Delhi-based organisation, Evalueserve, but from 2002 onwards (the period when India’s GDP began to soar) only 16 per cent chose to leave. Now, the research suggests, the West no longer seems synonymous with wealth and opportunity. Asked to predict which country would ‘hold the most promise for success’ in 10 years’ time, 72 per cent of the 677 IIT graduates surveyed named India, with only 17 per cent citing the US, 5 per cent Europe, and just 2 per cent China. The number who feel the US offers a better standard of living than India has fallen since 2001 from 13 per cent to almost zero. The study is a clear sign that the lamented flight of India’s best students, which has troubled the government for decades, may be reversing, in tandem with the turnaround in economic prospects.

This is the kind of information it’s important to highlight when discussing the social impacts of immigration – the long terms effects. Surely the long term effects will be positive for a country like India where people were free to leave and benefit from education in other parts of the world, then to bring it back home. They lend their brains to the rest of the world for a while then go help their own country. Everybody wins.

Of course, in other brain drain situations this may not be the case. Iraq, for example, is hemorrhaging educated people, and the situation there doesn’t look like it will be attractive enough any time soon to be able to draw those refugees back home.

On another note – this also goes a long way to show how perceptions of and realities in the U.S. are changing as well. Land of opportunity? Not as much these days.