US-China Tensions and Talent Mobility: Evidence from Air Traffic Data
26 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2021
Date Written: November 8, 2020
We provide a quantification of the impact of the recent US-China political tensions on talent flows from China to the US through the lens of monthly air passenger traffic data. By exploring variations across origin countries and geographical locations of US airports as well as differences over time, we find that the tensions, which escalated since 2018, have led to a more than 10% drop annually in the number of trips made from China to US airports near universities with a significant presence of Chinese students. A further investigation reveals that the decline in passenger inflows is driven mainly by the loss of passenger arrivals in August -- the peak time for international student travels to the US -- and is consistently steeper than the decrease for airports near tourist destinations during the same period. These findings offer fresh and updated evidence on the detrimental impact a hostile political climate could have on international talent mobility between two major economic and scientific powers, which is only part of all possible losses to both sides.
Keywords: US-China tensions, Trade war, Talent mobility, Air traffic
JEL Classification: F22, I28, J61
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation