While the contribution of skilled immigrants to America's technology and engineering startups has been recognized for the past decade as critical to the emergence of many of America's most entrepreneurial companies and huge, new industries, little has been known about the backgrounds of these immigrant entrepreneurs. What types of education have these technology and engineering entrepreneurs received? Why did they come to the United States?
A report released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation that tracked the educational backgrounds of immigrant entrepreneurs who were key founders of technology and engineering companies from 1995 to 2005 shows a strong correlation between educational attainment (particularly in science, technology, engineering and math) and entrepreneurship.
The study shows that 96 percent of immigrant founders of technology and engineering companies held bachelor's degrees and 74 percent held graduate or postgraduate degrees. Seventy-five percent of the highest degrees among immigrant entrepreneurs were in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Moreover, 53 percent of the immigrant founders of U.S.-based technology and engineering companies completed their highest degrees in U.S. universities.
Conducted by researchers at Duke University and the University of California, at Berkeley, the study is a follow-up to a report released in January that showed that in 25.3 percent of technology and engineering companies started in the United States from 1995 to 2005, at least one key founder was foreign-born. Nationwide, these immigrant-founded companies produced $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000 workers in 2005. The majority of these immigrant entrepreneurs came from India, United Kingdom, China, Taiwan, Japan and Germany.
The study was based on a series of in-depth interviews with:
Among the findings:
In a research and policy guide for transforming the U.S. economy toward an innovative entrepreneurial economy published earlier this year, Kauffman Foundation researchers said the nation could benefit from more enlightened immigration policies, designed to attract and retain highly skilled foreign workers and potential entrepreneurs.
About the research team
This report is part of the series Immigration and the American Economy.