For all of its faults, the United States has been the destination of choice for emigrants since – well – for half a century. Personally, I have friends and family who got their green cards just within the last few years. The US continues to be a magnet for talented and ambitious risk takers. Bill Kerr, Harvard Professor, titled his most recent book, The Gift of Global Talent: How Immigration Shapes Business, Economics, and Society and his thesis is simple – even if the data collection was difficult – immigrants drive a large % of growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship. People want to live and work here, and that’s largely been a big blessing. Factoid: 40% of US cancer researchers are immigrants.
US economy = huge demand
Times are good (yes, looking at the stock market this week, you might not think so), and unemployment in the US is at a 50 year low. As of October 2018, there were 7M unfilled jobs in the United States. This includes 450,000 highly-skilled manufacturing jobs. It’s a fairly basic tenet of economics that suppliers will try to fulfill demand. Here’s a data point, H1B visa season starts April 1. There are 85K visa to allocate, and typically there are 300K applications after one week.
“Boosting economic growth” is a bipartisan goal. In fact, both the 2016 presidential candidates mentioned some version of it on their campaign websites. One way to boost economic growth is to increase the number of people working, and one way to get more people working is to increase immigration. Economic evidence shows that, in addition to boosting economic growth, immigration leads to a positive impact on wages of native-born workers.
Evidence also suggests that immigration boosts innovation. A recent study by one of us looks at the effect of Jewish émigrés from Germany during World War II on American innovators and innovation. The study finds a significant increase in innovation—in fields entered by immigrants, there is a 30% increase in patents by domestic inventors. These benefits are driven at least in part by contacts between immigrants and native inventors. One of the mechanisms at play is that American inventors come into contact with new sets of ideas and methods that they then use for their own work.
There are more entrepreneurs in the United States than ever before. And many of them are immigrants, whose proportion of the U.S. population is the highest in history.
According to the Migration Institute, immigrants in the United States and their U.S.-born children now number approximately 81 million people, or 26 percent of the overall U.S. population.
And many of them have started their own companies, spurred by the financial crash of 2008. That’s evidence that the long tradition of the American Dream lives on: Immigrants continue to come to this country to make their dreams come true.