#220. Can Our Country Afford to Lose These People?

Posted on | The Agurban

Can Our Country Afford to Lose These People?

We have often reported about studies funded by the Kauffman Foundation, one of the largest foundations in the United States devoted exclusively to entrepreneurship. In addition, we have discussed immigration and the value of immigrants to the business communities in many U.S. cities.  A new report, America’s Loss Is the World’s Gain, was recently released by the Kauffman Foundation, along with Duke University, UC Berkeley, and Harvard University.

According to the study, between 1990 and 2007, the proportion of immigrants in the U.S. labor force increased from 9.3 percent to 15.7 percent. Immigrants have historically provided one of America’s greatest competitive advantages. They have come to the United States largely to work and have played a major role in the country’s growth through 2007. They have contributed disproportionately in the most dynamic part of the U.S. economy- the high-tech sector. Immigrants have co-founded firms such as Google, Intel, eBay, and Yahoo. And, immigrants contributed to more than a quarter of U.S. global patent applications.

Since even before the 2008 financial and economic crisis, some observers have noted that a substantial number of highly skilled immigrants have started returning to their home countries, including persons from low-income countries like India and China who have historically tended to stay permanently in the United States.

The study focused on Indian and Chinese immigrants who had worked or received their education in the United States and returned to their home country, and sought answers to questions such as what motivated their decision to leave the United States and how have they fared since returning to their home country?

The researches’ early motivation for the study was to see if immigrants were leaving the United States because of their frustration with the wait to receive a permanent-resident visa, and to determine if the Wall Street meltdown was contributing to the exodus.

The study found that, though restrictive immigration policies caused some returnees to depart the U.S., the most significant factors in the decision to return home were career opportunities, family ties and the quality of life, with the overwhelming preference for returning being to care for aging parents and to be closer to family and friends. In addition, as the economies of China and India develop, opportunities are now available for middle-and upper-class standards of living that were not previously available.

The returnees surveyed still believe that the United States remains superior in areas such as education and certain career opportunities, and a majority of the respondents indicated that they would at least consider returning to the U.S. if they could get a visa and a good job.

The study concluded that if the U.S. Government and the business community could find better ways to offer good jobs in tandem with less restrictiveness in visa policies for talented immigrants, the U.S. might be able to recapture many of these immigrants and their potential to serve as a much needed growth engine for the U.S. economy.

I have often discussed the value of immigrants to the U.S. work force and economy. Immigrants have historically provided one of American’s greatest competitive advantages. Remember, most of us do not have to look too far back in our heritage to find when our own ancestors immigrated to this great country of ours.

To view the complete report, visit America’s Loss Is the World’s Gain.