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How Skilled Immigrants Create Jobs

Publication Date: 
June 20, 2012
The Wall Street Journal
Matthew J. Slaughter

Fellow at the Rock Center for Corporate Governance Vivek Wadhwa is mentioned by the Wall Street Journal's Matthew J. Slaughter in the following article on the need to attract more high-skilled immigrants to the United States.

President Obama thrust immigration back into the spotlight last week with his executive order halting deportations for certain young illegal immigrants. In the context of America's jobs crisis, however, this is the wrong immigration issue to focus on. Our most pressing immigration problem marched across platforms at American colleges and universities in recent weeks—skilled foreign-born graduates whom we do not adequately incentivize to stay and work here.

At the Tuck School's graduation ceremony this month, I proudly read the names of 277 M.B.A. graduates. The Tuck class of 2012 was 35% foreign-born, representing countries from Australia to Zimbabwe. Many of these graduates chose Tuck over peer schools abroad because they aimed to apply their world-class U.S. education in the U.S. labor market. The same is true across academic fields. Today nearly 42% of all U.S. doctorate-level science and engineering workers are foreign-born.


These five graduates exemplify the worrisome reality that America's attractiveness is waning for talented immigrants from dynamic countries. In the past decade, the share of doctoral-degree recipients in science and engineering from China and India who report definite plans to stay in America has been falling. A recent survey by Duke University researcher Vivek Wadwha found that 72% of Indian immigrants who returned to their home country said that opportunities to start their own businesses were "better" or "much better" there than in the U.S. For Chinese immigrant returnees, the figure was an alarming 81%.