Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Oct 21st 2010 at 4:00pm UTC

Naheed Nenshi, Calgary’s New Mayor

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

This week, Calgary elected a new mayor. His name is Naheed Nenshi. I met him almost a decade ago when he was a participant in a forum on building the creative economy I helped catalyze with CEOs for Cities, Carol Coletta. Here’s one of his first interviews since being elected.

Here’s his recent TEDxCalgary talk:


Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Aug 6th 2009 at 5:30pm UTC

The Immigration Question

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

American attitudes toward immigration are hardening, according to a new Gallup poll. Half of all Americans say immigration should be “decreased” – up 11 points from 39 percent last year.


Anti-immigration sentiment is growing across all major political groupings. Some 61 percent of Republicans say they would like to see immigration decreased, up from 46 percent in 2008, compared to 46 percent of Democrats, up from 39 percent; and 44 percent of Independents, up from 37 percent.

Southerners show the greatest anti-immigration sentiment with 54 percent saying they would like to see immigration decreased, followed by easterners (51 percent), midwesterners (48 percent), and westerners (44 percent).

The poll also saw a shift in American attitudes toward whether “immigration is a good or a bad thing for the country” with more than a third (36 percent) saying it is a bad thing.

Gallup notes that this marks “a return to the attitudes that prevailed in the first few years after 9/11.”

Immigration in America has gone in great cycles over the past century or two. While immigration has typically fallen during economic crises, the U.S. has prospered from its relative openness to global talent. America saw an influx of leading scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and musicians during the Great Depression which helped bolster its position at the frontiers of science, technology, entrepreneurship, and the arts during the long post-war boom.

Economic crises are transformative periods when talent flows can be reset and countries and regions rise and decline. The future belongs to those countries and regions that can attract the best and brightest across the entire world.

Growing anti-immigrant sentiment, should it continue, is bad news for American technology, entrepreneurship, and the economy in general. Let’s hope it turns around.

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

Immigration, What’s the Big Deal?

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

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.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sat May 23rd 2009 at 11:00am UTC

Immigrants and Urban Revival

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Anti-immigration sentiment may be growing in some parts of the country, but this Philadelphia non-profit welcomes them as part of a new urban future.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed May 13th 2009 at 7:46pm UTC

Learning from Toronto

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

En route to obtaining his back-dated, life-long Canadian citizenship, Will Wilkinson, one of the sharpest young policy minds around, dropped by to visit at the Prosperity Institute. Back home state-side, he wrote this terrific essay on why Toronto’s largely successful experiment in immigration – its global-straddling ethnic mosaic – is a big smack upside the head for notions that immigration is eating away at core “Anglo-Protestant” values and institutions a la the late Samuel Huntington.

Here is what Toronto is not: Toronto is not dirty, dangerous, or poor. Toronto is not a hell of lost liberties or a babble of cultural incoherence or a ruin of failed institutions. Yet a popular argument against high levels of immigration suggests it should be.

In his 2004 book Who Are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity, the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington warned that “the United States of America will suffer the fate of Sparta and Rome,” should its founding Anglo-Protestant culture continue to wane … So we must take care to protect our precious cultural patrimony from the acid of “denationalizing” economic and cultural globalization. We must keep outsiders out.

Successful societies (so this argument goes) owe their liberty and prosperity to distinct institutions which, in turn, depend on the persistence and dominance of the culture that established and nurtured them. Should that culture fade—or become too diluted by the customs, religions, and tongues of outsiders—the foundation of all that is best and most attractive about that society cannot long last.

But somebody forgot to tell Toronto! Nearly half the denizens of Canada’s most populous metropolis were born outside the nation’s borders—47 percent according to the 2006 census, and the number is rising. This makes Toronto, the fifth biggest city in North America, also the most diverse city in North America. Neither Miami, nor Los Angeles, nor New York City can compete with Toronto’s cosmopolitan credentials.

Here is what Toronto is: the fifth most livable city in the world. So said the Economist Intelligence Unit in a report last year drawing on indicators of stability, health care, culture, environment, education, and infrastructure. … Toronto is wealthy, healthy, well-educated, and much safer than any sizable American city. In 2006, its murder rate was 2.6 per 100,000 residents, which makes it less than half as deadly as Des Moines. The most culturally mixed city on the continent truly is one of Earth’s closest approximations of urban paradise …

The United States, this fabled land of immigrants, has fallen dismally far behind countries like Australia and Canada in openness to immigration … That cultural fragility argument is false, and it deserves to die.

Toronto, which has an Anglo-Protestant heritage as strong as any, has proved it dead wrong. In fact, Toronto shows that a community and its core institutions can not only survive a massive and growing immigrant population but thrive with one. Multicultural Toronto and cities like it prove that the institutions of liberal modernity are robust. Life within them is so good that people the world over flock to them. And newcomers do not take these institutions for granted. They have a stake in seeing them last. They can and do make them stronger …

Maybe someday an American city will place in the top 10 on the list of the world’s most livable places. Maybe—if it becomes more like Toronto.

Wilkinson hits several nails directly on the head here. In Flight of the Creative Class, I argued against Huntington and offered that Canada’s and Toronto’s mosaic principle may well prove to be one of the core enduring principles of the emerging creative economy. It surely looks more robust than America’s fabled melting pot principle under the stress of economic crisis.

Just quickly: one of the guiding principles of our Prosperity Institute is to develop seamless comparable rankings of North America - at least U.S. and Canadian states, provinces, cities, metropolitan areas, and mega-regions. Wilkinson and I spent a good deal of time talking about what if we just take away the “jurisdictional border” in our analysis. What if just start writing about North America’s provinces, states, and cities? How might than improve the quality and robustness of our understanding?

The great political sociologist Seymour Marty Lipset long ago wrote that the only way to truly understand America was to study and live in and understand Canada. He could not be more right.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed May 13th 2009 at 7:30am UTC

Economic Crisis and Global Mobility

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Anti-immigration sentiment has been rising in the U.S. and Europe as the economic slump deepens. But how has the relationship between mobility and the economy played out historically? How have economic crises affected immigration and global flows of people?

A new study by economists Timothy Hatton of the Australian National University and Harvard’s Jeffrey G. Williamson takes a close look, examining changing patterns of global mobility and immigration, as well as shifts in public opinion toward immigrants in light of major economic cycles. And they find that previous economic crises in the U.S. and other advanced nations have led to sharp declines in immigration and global mobility.

[T]he rise in unemployment abroad had nearly three times the effect on emigration from the UK between 1870 and 1913 as a rise in unemployment at home. During the slump of the early 1890s, gross immigration to the US fell by half and net migration to Australia evaporated. During the Great Depression, net immigration to the US, Canada, Australia and Argentina turned negative as new immigration virtually ceased and as previous immigrants headed home …

But how big are these effects? Where immigration policies are not too restrictive, history tells us that every 100 jobs lost in a high-immigration country results in 10 fewer immigrants. This 10% rule described countries like Canada and Australia in the Great Depression, and it worked pretty well for other periods too. During the severe 1890s depression in the US, net immigrant exits reduced the unemployment rate by about 1.6 percentage points.

The following graph from their study shows the relationship between the unemployment and the net immigration rate per thousand of the population (including illegal immigrants) for the U.S. between 1990 and 2004.

Interestingly enough, anti-immigrant sentiment in the advanced countries has been kept at bay during the current slump: Hattel and Williamson conclude that the “current world crisis will reduce immigration, and the long-run pressure to immigrate will continue to ease after it is over.”

One of the most powerful, though least understood, effects of economic crises is their ability to alter global talent flows. Economic history shows that major economic crises like the current, can and frequently do produce considerable alterations in global flows of talent - particularly high-skill, highly inventive, and highly entrepreneurial immigrants. The U.S., which had previously been sending its own talent abroad for scientific and technical training, gained immeasurably from a massive inflow of high-skill immigrants during the crisis of the late 19th century and perhaps even more so in the flood of scientific, artistic, and entrepreneurial talent during the Great Depression.

The current crisis holds out the potential to again reset the flow of global talent. If so, this could have even bigger consequences than in previous times – and for an obvious reason. Economists agree that economic growth and technological innovation today revolve around human capital. We also know that innovative and entrepreneurial talent is highly mobile, highly skewed, and highly clustered geographically. Foreign-born talent composes an estimated third to half of all recent Silicon Valley high-tech start-ups, according to recent studies; and foreign-born engineers make up a huge percentage of their technical staff. The countries and regions that nurture, attract, and retain global talent gain enormous economic advantage.

We may be in the early phases of such a talent reset today. More potential immigrants appear to be choosing to stay home, as Hattel and Williamson note, partly because conditions in several of the most important emerging economies like India and China have improved, relatively speaking. And a number of countries like Canada and Australia, and some in Scandinavia and Northern Europe, have upped their own efforts to attract high-skill immigrants. The U.S. with rising anti-immigrant sentiment, homeland security restrictions, and declining economic opportunities may be seeing its talent advantage wane.

Global talent flows can shift quickly. And, the global competition for talent is a game that is played at the margins. As I outlined in Flight of the Creative Class, while no single one country has to replace America as the predominant destination for global talent, many countries appear to be improving their relative position. Say 10 or 20 percent more of China and India’s top talent decided to stay put, while countries like Canada, Australia, and others up their draw by five or 10 or 20 percent. Those numbers add up quickly.

Anti-immigration stances and other measures that impede talent flows may offer some political gains, but they will only undermine long-run innovation and prosperity. Those nations and regions that maintain and expand their ability to attract global talent  will emerge as global winners when economic growth rebounds.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Fri Apr 17th 2009 at 9:02am UTC

Move North Young Techie

Friday, April 17th, 2009
In Flight of the Creative Class, I argued that America’s restrictive immigration policies could begin to redirect the flow of technology talent to Canada. Microsoft opened its Vancouver area Development Center partly in response to gain access to global talent. On Monday, the Toronto Star ran this intriguing story of a Google engineer who’s moved his family to Toronto because of his wife’s visa problems.

The H-1B’s spousal complement, the dreaded H-4 or “dependent” visa, means if he wants to stay and work in America, his brilliant, cheerful and pregnant wife Samvita Padukone, 27, would be chained at home by work restrictions. “The H-4 is out,” he says, sitting next to Padukone in their Toronto home. “Because there’s no way that I would be comfortable – I mean, I don’t have the right, to tell my wife `You have to sit at home and be barefoot and pregnant.’ No one has the right to tell anyone that, let alone someone who studied in Singapore on scholarship.” …

The couple’s situation isn’t unique. Mavinkurve, who works on digital mapping and was recently promoted to head a team at Google’s California headquarters, says he is one of several Google employees stationed in Canada because of American visa restrictions. Noting that Alberta has targeted H-1B holders, he says “Canada is already showing signs of capitalizing on America’s misguided `walls.’” …

“It’s hard for me to know what `from’ means. I was born in Bombay and I have a lot of family there. But I grew up in Saudi Arabia, because that’s where my dad was working for a long time. And then at the age of 14 I went to America,” he says. “The baby will just, kind of, be born whenever, wherever we are.” Living here and working for a company in California presents its own, uniquely modern challenges” …

This past Saturday we went to a party in Miami hosted by a young gay couple who are planning on having a family – one’s a Canadian with long experience in financing sustainable investments in emerging economies, the other an American with strong ties to Miami. They’re looking at houses in Toronto – because it’s a great place to raise a family and because of the economic crisis.

Crises are times when the relative positions of nations and cities can, and frequently do, change quickly. The closing of European economies during the late 20s and 30s causes a massive movement of top scientific, entrepreneurial, and creative talent to the United States. I’m not saying anything like that will happen to the U.S. But when it comes to top talent, the margin can really matter. If talented people or their spouses face obstacles to working and living in the U.S., they will go elsewhere: some will return home, some may go to Canada.  Enterprising companies will open up facilities where needed to attract this talent. Over time, these sorts of places can develop a self-reinforcing cycle of growth, developing greater abilities to attract talent.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Feb 12th 2009 at 8:00am UTC

Looming Talent Protectionism

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

On top of Buy American provisions, certain U.S. political actors are now trying to restrict immigration on the grounds of protecting American jobs. The Grassley-Sanders bill in the Senate is the product of the strange politics of our times – a Republican and a socialist-leaning independent – is a veritable Smoot-Hawley for the talent-based economy. A very big mistake, for reasons this Business Week report points out.

But placing limits on this mechanism for bringing foreign workers to the U.S. is not the answer to the country’s rising unemployment rate and may undermine efforts to spur technological innovation…

Increased numbers of H-1B visas strongly correlate with increased numbers of patents applied for in the U.S. by immigrant inventors …The researchers also found no evidence that increasing H-1B visa awards decreased innovation by U.S.-born researchers in the form of patent applications, a decrease that is often described as “crowding out.” To the contrary, their analysis identified a weak but still positive impact (often called “crowding in”) on the numbers of patents filed by non-immigrants in regions where the number of H-1B visas awarded were highest.   Even more telling … in periods when H-1B visa numbers went down, so did patent applications filed by immigrants. And when H-1B visa numbers went up, patent applications followed suit. …

When American workers who have the skills to file patents and develop new technologies get laid off, they often start new companies. And these companies generate employment and help the economy recover. When workers on H-1B visas get laid off, they usually have no choice but to return home and start their companies abroad. So they are planting the seeds for future economic growth in their home countries, seeds that could easily have been planted in the U.S.

So the critics of skilled immigration may get their wish. We will scare away the world’s best and brightest who have always flocked to our shores. But the next Silicon Valley won’t be in located the U.S. It will likely be in Hyderabad or Shanghai.

Or say Vancouver, Toronto, or Waterloo.

Michael Wells
by Michael Wells
Sat Oct 4th 2008 at 9:26am UTC

Across the Border

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

In yesterday’s New York Times, I noticed a few separate articles about Latin America and was struck by the impact the U.S. financial crisis/downturn is having in the rest of the hemisphere. In several ways, legal and illegal, we have been supporting economies which will now grow more slowly and needed investment will slow down. What effect it may have on reforms is unclear – Thomas Friedman has argued that huge oil revenues actually slows reform in many countries.

Just looking at Mexico, they’ll be losing money three ways:

  • Reduced remittances
  • Declining oil sales and prices
  • More controversially, possibly declining drug smuggling and sales

I’ve provided the headline, URL link and brief quotes from each article. Do these connections make sense to you? What other impacts going both ways across the border might we see?

“Fewer People Entering U.S. Illegally, Report Says”

“..for the first time in nearly a decade, the number of people entering the country illegally was lower than the number arriving through legal channels.”

“Central banks from Mexico to Brazil have projected the biggest declines in remittances from the United States in more than 10 years.”

“In Mexico, where remittances are the second-largest source of foreign income after oil, officials projected a 12 percent drop this year, the biggest on record.”

“After Financial Crisis, Uncertainty and Lectures From Abroad”

“In only a few days, Latin American leaders have gone from schadenfreude to fear. Despite strong economic growth this decade and some aggressive efforts to break free of the American orbit, there is a growing nervousness that once again Latin America cannot escape the globalized connections in the financial sector that run through the United States.”

“…the financial crisis has exploded far beyond Wall Street. Whipsawing global markets are already having a ripple effect across Latin America. As nervous investors pulled money out of emerging markets, Brazil’s currency, the real, plunged 16 percent against the dollar last month, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses at large food and eucalyptus-pulp exporters that placed bad bets on the direction of the real.”

“Mexican President Proposes Decriminalizing Some Drugs”

“President Filipe Calderon who has made fighting drug traffickers the centerpiece of his administration, proposed legislation on Thursday that would decriminalize the possession of small quantities of cocaine and other drugs for addicts who agreed to undergo treatment.”

“A recent government survey found that the number of drug addicts in Mexico had almost doubled in the past six years to 307,000, while the number of those who had tried drugs rose to 4.5 million from 3.5 million.”

“Drugs used to flow through Mexico to the United States, and they still do, but an increasing amount of those narcotics now stays in Mexico to feed the habits of domestic consumers.”

I’m just extrapolating, but as smuggling gets harder will less illegal immigration, and U.S. recreational drug users cut back their budgets, the cartels will look at selling more in Latin American countries.

“Falling Oil Price Is a Positive Note Amid Turmoil”

“While consumers welcome the decline, which will reduce the nation’s $1.3 billion daily oil import bill, oil producers are wary. Mexico said it might have to cut its budget next year as petroleum revenue dropped. Countries like Russia and Venezuela, which have been riding a wave of energy-fueled nationalism, could be forced to scale back their ambitions and energy projects that require enormous financing could be delayed.”

Michael Wells
by Michael Wells
Wed Sep 24th 2008 at 8:12am UTC

No New Waves

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

The Census American Community Survey shows a slowing of people moving to the U.S. While this is economically driven, I wonder what it means about our future? There’s no breakdown between students, entrepreneurs, laborers, etc. so it’s hard to interpret.

Does anyone know if this is happening in Canada, Europe, Australia?

From the AP story:

The wave of immigrants entering the United States slowed dramatically last year as the economy faltered and the government stepped up enforcement of immigration laws.

The nation added about a half-million immigrants in 2007, down from more than 1.8 million the year before, according to estimates being released Tuesday by the Census Bureau.