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Reason Foundation

I.T. Go Home

Skilled immigrant exodus

Brian Doherty
May 29, 2009

Why do many highly trained immigrants choose to return to countries such as India and China rather than staying in the far wealthier United States? After all, their prospects here are good: Such immigrants were either CEOs or lead technologists in 52 percent of Silicon Valley’s startups from 1995 to 2005. Those immigrant-founded companies created $52 billion in revenue in 2006 and gave jobs to 450,000 workers.

Researchers led by Vivek Wadhwa, a scholar at Duke and Harvard, surveyed 1,203 immigrants who chose to return to India or China. According to their report, “America’s Loss Is the World’s Gain,” issued in March by Duke’s Global Engineering and Entrepreneurship Project, “87.3 percent of Chinese and 62.3 percent of Indians saw better career opportunities in their home countries than in the United States.”

That isn’t to say there isn’t anything Americans could do to lure them back. Each year more than 1 million skilledworker immigrants compete for only 120,000 U.S. permanent resident visas. “Presented with career opportunities or jobs in the United States equivalent to what they have in their home countries and a U.S. permanentresident visa,” Wadhwa and his colleagues found, 63 percent of Indian returnees and 71 percent of Chinese returnees said they would come back to America or seriously consider it.


Brian Doherty is Senior Editor


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