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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 July 2020

Abdulaziz B. Shifa*
Syracuse University
Address correspondence to: Abdulaziz B. Shifa, Economics Department, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University. e-mail:


For a developing economy transitioning into knowledge-intensive sectors, the lack of capacity for advanced education poses a natural challenge. Many successfully industrialized countries used high-skilled foreign teachers to overcome this challenge. I present a stylized quantitative model of trade in high-skilled human capital, in which colleges in a developing country can hire high quality teachers from a developed country. In the model, the use of foreign teachers is proposed as a possible mechanism to build domestic capacity for advanced education. Quantitative calibrations of the model show two main results. First, there are significant frictions in human capital trade, as measured by the wedge between the level of human capital observed in the data versus the level simulated under the assumption of no frictions. Removal of the wedge can narrow the average income gap between the USA and other countries by about 14–24%. Second, relative to countries with the lowest and highest incomes, middle-income countries appear to gain the most from removing the wedge.

© Cambridge University Press 2020

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I thank Philippe Aghion, Kristy Buzard, Alexandre Dmitriev, John Hassler, Boyan Jovanovic, Paul Klein, Per Krusell, Conny Olovsson, Torsten Persson, Kjetil Storesletten, Jakob Svensson, and participants in the macro study group at the Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES), the Development Workshop group at Gothenburg University, and the SUDWEc 2012 conference for helpful feedback. I thank anonymous referees for helpful comments. All errors are mine.


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