But now that tide is turning; immigrants no longer always see developed countries as a better place to be. This U-turn – a "brain gain" for developing countries – features people like Kenyan Sitati Kituyi, who opted to get off the high-powered consultancy ladder in London for a tech start-up in Africa. Or Han Jie, an entrepreneur, lured home to China from the United States with government incentives to set up a medical-equipment factory. Or Bernardo Fontoura, a young Portuguese in business communications, who moved to Rio de Janeiro to be part of what he calls Brazil's "golden age" as it readies for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
The financial crisis that began in 2008 has tested middle-class America's sense of stability and the European right to social welfare. It has also caused many to question whether the developed world is still the only land of opportunity worth migrating to.
Emerging economies not only are faring better than most of the developed world in the current recession, they also continue to grow, drawing back their expatriates and, in some cases, even luring new high-skilled citizens of the US and Europe.
It is the "democratization of talent," says Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the nonprofit Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. "Everyone went to four or five English-speaking countries before, [and all other nations] got the third-rung talent. Today, knowledge is no longer monopolized anywhere."