Children of Skilled Immigrants – Part II

Earlier this month, we discussed a new study from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), that found a substantial majority of the top science and math students in American high schools are children of immigrants. (See Study: Immigrant Children Boost U.S. Science Achievement, MurthyBlog, 03.Jun.2011.) After interviewing student finalists in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search competition – sometimes referred to as the Junior Nobel Prize competition – the study’s author, Stuart Anderson, spoke with their parents, and made an astonishing discovery: 28 of 40 finalists had immigrant parents – fully 70 percent – of whom 24 of 28 had started working in the United States on H1B visas, and 14 of these 24 had come here originally on international student visas.

In a recent commentary on, Alex Nowrasteh, a frequent commenter on immigration policy, mentioned the NFAP study as further evidence that, in his words, “the children of highly skilled immigrants become exceptional Americans.” (See The Exceptional Children of Skilled Immigrants, by Alex Nowrasteh,, 14.Jun.2011.) Another example? Nowrasteh points out:

“The children of immigrants dominated the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee. This year, eighth-grader Sukanya Roy spelled “periscii” and “cymotrichous” to take the title (not even my Microsoft Word spell check recognizes those words), becoming the fourth American of Indian descent to win the bee in a row, and the ninth to win it in the past 13 years.

“Sukanya’s parents are both immigrants from India. Sukyana’s father, Abhi Roy, teaches marketing at the University of Scranton, and her mother Mousumi Roy is an independent mathematics scholar and former instructor at Johns Hopkins University. Both are highly skilled, competent, and trained individuals who have made America a wealthier place. And now their daughter is poised to do the same.”

The apple never falls far from the tree, Nowrasteh’s article suggests:

“These impressive results shouldn’t be surprising. Highly skilled immigrants are exceedingly productive, even compared with the average American. According to the 2010 Census, Americans of Asian descent had a median household income of $74,797, well above the American median of $60,088. Notably, more than three-quarters of all H1B visa recipients in 2008 were from Asia.”

These results are not surprising; as Nowrasteh suggests, children of high-achieving parents tend to excel in school at least in part because their parents push them to do so, but also because they can see, by example, that it is possible to succeed through hard work – something worth considering when the xenophobes sound the alarm about the purported dangers of immigration.

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