Zoltan Acs
by Zoltan Acs
Thu Jul 23rd 2009 at 9:57am UTC

Immigration, What’s the Big Deal?

It’s my pleasure to announce the release of a new study of immigrant entrepreneurs in the U.S. high-tech sector, which I co-authored with David Hart and Spencer Tracy. The central finding of the study is that about 16 percent of the nationally representative sample of high-impact, high-tech businesses that we surveyed count at least one foreign-born person among their founding team.

Only about three percent of the founders of high-impact, high-tech companies are foreigners (60 out of 2034). 97 percent are U.S. citizens, and specifically 87 percent are U.S.-born, while the other 10 percent are naturalized U.S. citizens. Furthermore, most foreign-born founders lived in the US for decades.  These founders are statistically very similar to the average U.S. population in terms of birth and immigration status.

An interesting but unanswered aspect of the study is how these high-tech immigrants (many not new), part of the international creative class, help integrate U.S. business in a post-American world? Do they as some have claimed strengthen America in a post-American world, or is it a non-issue? If they strengthen our connection to the rest of the world through “brain circulation” is the flight of the creative class not a major public policy issue?

A second issue has to do with closing the borders. If America closed the borders to high impact entrepreneurs, would its own citizens fill the breach? Would more students become better high school students and go on to college and graduate school in engineering and the sciences? This is a much more difficult question to answer, but is again at the heart of public policy today.

2 Responses to “Immigration, What’s the Big Deal?”

  1. RS Says:

    I find this result remarkable.

    Do you think the emphasis on manufacturing industries (44 out of the 49 high tech industries) impacts this result? Did run a separate analysis on just the 5 service industries?

  2. Does Phoenix Need To Change? | Derek Neighbors Says:

    [...] Allowing easier LEGAL immigration will help curb and make enforcement of ILLEGAL immigration.  16% of high impact, high tech startups have at least 1 foreign born founder.  So, where does the council stand on allowing people to immigrate here?  Where does it stand of [...]