Immigrant health workers in Chile: is there a Latin American "brain drain"?

Baltica Cabieses, Helena Tunstall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most research on the phenomenon of "brain drain" (one-way flow of highly skilled/educated individuals) has focused on movement between the least developed and most highly developed countries. Therefore, the significance of patterns of migration to middle-income countries such as those in Latin America is less clear. The aim of this study was to outline key features of international health worker "brain drain" to Chile to promote discussion and further research on this phenomenon as it pertains to the Latin American region. The study compared immigrant health workers living in Chile to both Chilean-born health workers and other immigrants living in Chile using a qualitative nationwide dataset (the results of Chile's 2009 National Socioeconomic Characterization Survey). Demographic, socioeconomic, and health-related variables were included in the analyses, which were weighted by population to obtain nationally representative estimates. In 2009, immigrant health workers represented 2.2% of all health personnel and 2.6% of all resident immigrants in the country. While most immigrant health workers had a universitylevel education, about 25% had only a high school-level education or less. There was no statistically significant difference between the distribution of immigrant health workers' household income and that of Chilean-born health workers. A significantly higher proportion of the immigrant group reported no entitlement to health care provision. While the results of this study do not indicate a significant international health worker "brain drain" to Chile, they do suggest distinctive patterns of migration within the Latin American region. Future studies in Chile could confirm the validity of these results, using a larger sample of immigrant health workers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-7
Number of pages7
JournalRevista panamericana de salud pública = Pan American journal of public health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Databases, Factual
  • Educational Status
  • Emigrants and Immigrants
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Female
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Latin America
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult


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