The study, conducted by Duke University professor and Harvard researcher Vivek Wadhwa surveyed 1,224 foreign nationals currently studying in U.S. institutions of higher learning or who had graduated by the end of the 2008 academic school year.
Immigrants historically have contributed to some of America's most
successful businesses and innovations. Between 1990 and 2007, the
proportion of immigrants in the U.S. labor force increased from 9.3
percent to 15.7 percent, and a large and growing proportion of
immigrants bring high levels of education and skill to the United
States. Immigrants have contributed disproportionately in the most
dynamic part of the U.S. economy—the high-tech sector—co-founding firms
such as Google, Intel, eBay and Yahoo. In addition, immigrant inventors
contributed to more than a quarter of U.S. global patent applications.
Immigrant-founded U.S.-based companies employed 450,000 workers and
generated $52 billion in revenue in 2006.
According to the study's findings, very few foreign students would like to stay in the United States permanently—only 6 percent of Indian, 10 percent of Chinese and 15 percent of Europeans. And fewer foreign students than the historical norm expressed interest in staying in the United States after they graduate. Only 58 percent of Indian, 54 percent of Chinese and 40 percent of European students wish to stay for several years after graduation. Previous National Science Foundation research has shown 68 percent of foreigners who received science and engineering doctorates stayed for extended periods of time, including 73 percent of those who studied computer science. The five-year minimum stay rate was 92 percent for Chinese students and 85 percent for Indian students.
Among the study's other findings:
The students who were returning to their native countries echo a sentiment expressed by highly skilled Chinese and Indian immigrant entrepreneurs who were surveyed in the recent Kauffman Foundation study, “America's Loss in the World's Gain.” The strongest reason returnees cited for leaving the United States was that economic opportunities in their home country were better and they wanted to be with friends and families at home. Returnees also expressed strong entrepreneurial aspirations, and the majority believed that their best opportunities for entrepreneurship were at home. “Losing the Worlds' Best and Brightest” study is fifth in a series of reports Wadhwa has conducted on immigrant entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation.
The researchers believe continued loss of these talented individuals and their ability to start companies and create patents will reduce U.S. competitiveness. In the near term, entrepreneurs starting new companies will likely provide a much greater boost to the U.S. economy than government bailouts to banks.
Business Dynamics Statistics: An Overview
Business Dynamics Statistics Briefing: High Growth and Failure of Young Firms
This report is part of the series Immigration and the American Economy.