American Immigration Council: Immigrant Entrepreneurship and its Benefits

Looking ahead to this year’s midterm elections, it’s a safe bet that we’ll hear more about immigration policy as campaign season hits its stride. If recent elections are any guide, the national conversation about public policy – particularly where immigration is concerned – is likely to be both more emotional and more negative in the run-up to November.

A healthy dose of cold, hard facts may be the best antidote to the xenophobic fear-mongering and anti-immigrant fever dreams that are bound to surface near election time. Hats off to the American Immigration Council (AIC) for setting the record straight in a new factsheet, Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Innovators Across the United States (American Immigration Council, 11.Mar.2014.], which capsulizes some of the most important recent research findings on the economic benefits that flow from immigration. Among them:

  • Educational achievement – a substantial proportion of U.S. STEM graduates are foreign-born. According to the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE), “‘non-resident aliens’ comprised almost 41 percent of all masters and doctorate degrees in STEM fields. 40 percent of STEM masters’ degrees and 45 percent of STEM doctorates were awarded to ‘non-resident aliens.'”
  • Innovation – AIC points to a key finding of a PNAE study, that “76 percent of patents awarded to the top ten patent-producing U.S. universities in 2011 had at least one foreign-born inventor.” The rates were still higher for foreign-born inventors in “high-tech and cutting-edge fields,” such as “semiconductor manufacturing (87 percent), information technology (84 percent), pulse or digital communications (83 percent), pharmaceutical drugs or compounds (79 percent), and optics (77 percent).”
  • Entrepreneurship – AIC cites a 2012 Kauffman Foundation study showing that “immigrants were nearly twice as likely as the native-born to start businesses each month,” and that the percentage of entrepreneurs who are immigrants actually doubled – 13.7 percent to 27.1 percent – from 1996 to 2012.
  • Job creation – AIC notes that Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants now employ over 3.6 million people. According to a study from the National Venture Capital Association, cited by AIC, “Immigrant-founded venture-backed public companies” – often high-tech startups – “employ approximately 600,000 people, mostly in the United States.”
  • Urban revitalization – in nearly all of the country’s top 25 major cities, immigrants are founding businesses at a rate that far outstrips their share of the local population, providing employment opportunities that help reverse the decline of urban neighborhoods, according to a study by the Fiscal Policy Institute, cited by AIC.

Taken together, all of these positive effects of immigration – effects documented by a welter of serious academic and policy research – make a compelling argument for an immigration policy that would welcome more bright, ambitious people from around the world. If anything, it suggests we should make it easier – not harder – for them to contribute their creative energies to the common good of this country. When you bracket out the fear factor and stick to the evidence, it’s easier to keep the conversation focused on what really matters. That’s what makes the AIC factsheets so helpful.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.