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Immigration and the Innovation Economy

February 13, 2013

In Tuesday’s New York Times Economix blog, Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, Associate Professor at the Yale School of Management, makes the case for high-skilled immigration.

American secondary school students consistently rank toward the bottom among their counterparts in other countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in tests measuring science and mathematics aptitude. The United States has sustained its primary position as developer of new scientific knowledge and product innovations, despite the deficiencies in math and science training, with the immigration of skilled workers.

. . .

Talented people across the world are attracted to the institutions that the United States has carefully cultivated to support innovation. By any reasonable assessment, a clear majority of the world’s top universities are in the United States. These universities attract talent from all over the globe. Most engineering Ph.D.’s granted at American universities now go to people born abroad. In a recently published paper, my colleagues and I show that these foreign-born doctoral students create new scientific knowledge and fuel innovation at science and engineering labs at American universities. In that paper, increases in the supply of foreign students subsequently result in significantly greater publications and citations from science and engineering departments in the United States. Many of those students remain in the country after graduation and contribute to the innovations produced by American companies.

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