Study Finds US Remains a Magnet for World’s Best and Brightest AI Talent, but More Global Talent are Staying Home Instead of Going Abroad

CHICAGO, March 6, 2024—In a major update to MacroPolo’s pioneering Global AI Talent Tracker, the latest findings show American resilience as the top destination for the world’s most elite AI researchers. While the United States remains the center of gravity for top AI talent to engage in cutting-edge work, the last few years have also seen another trend: more top AI talent opting to stay in their home countries instead of going abroad.

Indeed, the last few years have seen artificial intelligence take the world by storm. Products like ChatGPT and DALL-E have captured people’s imagination and raised countries’ desire to cultivate their AI industries. Inevitably, debate over AI’s potential and peril has intensified. But what’s beyond debate is that producing outcomes at the frontier requires top-flight talent, no matter where they’re from.

In the competition over AI, retaining top talent yields the decisive edge, with countries and companies competing over a limited, finite pool of the best talent. However, quantifying and demonstrating the flow of that talent globally has not been done before MacroPolo’s Global AI Talent Tracker.

“From my vantage point, when it comes to tech, America innovates, China scales, and Europe regulates. So it is no surprise to see America attracting the best talent because those are the people who want to make a mark in the most innovative AI industry. But America cannot rest on its laurels and take this edge for granted because China, and increasingly India, are no slouches when it comes to producing AI talent. America must remain the most competitive and dynamic place to do cutting-edge work—it’s the only way to assure that global talent flows our way in the long term,” says Henry Paulson, Chairman of the Paulson Institute.

With this update, MacroPolo brings the same rigorous, data-driven approach to the original tracker, yielding valuable and thought-provoking insights. Here are the key takeaways:

  1. The United States remains the top destination for top-tier AI talent (top ~20 percent) to work. Within US institutions, researchers of American and Chinese origin (based on undergraduate degrees) comprise 75 percent of the top-tier AI talent, up from 58 percent in 2019. Moreover, the United States remains far and away the leading destination for the world’s most elite AI talent (top 2 percent) and remains home to 60 percent of top AI institutions.
  2. Beyond the United States and China, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and continental Europe have slightly raised their game as destinations for top AI researchers to work. When it comes to AI researcher origin (based on undergraduate degrees), India and Canada have seen relative declines.
  3. Meanwhile, China has expanded its domestic AI talent pool over the last few years to meet the demands of its growing AI industry. Because China produces a sizable portion of the world’s top AI researchers—rising from 29 percent in 2019 to 47 percent in 2022—it is no surprise that more Chinese talent are working in the domestic industry.
  4. A similar dynamic appears to be taking place in India. While India remains a significant exporter of top-tier AI researchers, its ability to retain talent is growing. In 2019, nearly all Indian AI researchers (based on undergraduate degrees) opted to pursue opportunities abroad. But in 2022, one-fifth of Indian AI researchers ended up staying to work in India.
  5. These developments in China and India seem to reflect a broader pattern over the last few years: top-tier AI researchers appear to exhibit less mobility overall. Just 42 percent of top-tier AI researchers in 2022 are foreign nationals currently working in a different country, down 13 percentage points from 2019—meaning more top-tier talent is staying put in their home countries.

About MacroPolo
MacroPolo is the in-house think tank of the Paulson Institute in Chicago. Based in Chicago, our team of experts and creators provides incisive analysis, creative research products, and insightful multimedia and digital content on today’s most pertinent global dynamics and pressing trends—from economics and technology to energy and politics. To learn more, please visit

About the Paulson Institute
Founded in 2011 by former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr., the non-partisan Paulson Institute is based in Chicago, with offices in Washington and Beijing. The Paulson Institute is a non-partisan, independent, privately funded “think and do tank” dedicated to fostering a US-China relationship that serves to maintain global order in a rapidly evolving world. The focus on US-China is dictated by the reality that it is the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world. We operate at the intersection of economics, financial markets, and environmental protection by promoting market-based solutions to ensure green economic growth. To learn more, please visit

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Kristin Gomez, Director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives