The Increasing Importance of Immigrants to Science and Engineering in America

Stuart Anderson
Date of Publication: 
June, 2014
Source Organization: 
National Foundation for American Policy

The United States has benefitted enormously from foreign-born talent, particularly since 1965 when the U.S. eliminated major restrictions on immigration and opened the door to immigrants from Asia.

In fact, the data show that the country's success in innovation, academia and high-skilled fields is linked to its more open immigration policy. This is the contention of Stuart Anderson in the brief "The Increasing Importance of Immigrants to Science and Engineering in America." Using data from a variety of sources, Anderson shows that lifting major restrictions in immigration law in the mid-1960s has had a positive effect on many areas of American life. For example, the number of foreign-born immigrants winning Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Medicine and Physics jumped after the 1960s. The same trend can be seen in foreign-born PhDs working in science and engineering occupations, which grew from 23 percent in 1993 to 42 percent in 2010. At the nation's top 7 cancer research centers, 42 percent of researchers are foreign-born. The increased number of high-skilled, foreign-born entrepreneurs starting companies in the U.S. has contributed to new jobs, technology, growth and innovation. These findings suggest that restrictive immigration policies such as those of the early 20th century have detrimental effects on the nation's ability to innovate, create jobs and expand markets.

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Anderson, S. (2014). The Increasing Importance of Immigrants to Science and Engineering in America. National Foundation for American Policy. Arlington: VA.

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