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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

June 29, 2007

Written by C.N.

Asian Immigrants and High-Tech Entrepreneurship

I’ve written before that research continues to support the notion that in general, immigrants produce more benefits than drawbacks for American society and its economy. As further reinforcement of this argument, Diverse Education reports on a new study that again demonstrates that immigrants –particularly from Asia — create a disproportionate number of high-tech businesses in American society:

[O]f 2,054 hi-tech companies founded during 1995-2005, around 500, or 25.3 percent, were founded by immigrants. The companies had more than $1 million in sales, 20 or more employees, and company branches with 50 or more employees. Out of the 500 companies, 144 were surveyed and it was found that 96 percent of founders held bachelor’s degrees, 47.2 percent held master’s degrees and 26.8 percent held a doctorate degree. More than half (53 percent) of the immigrant founders completed their highest degrees from U.S. universities.

“Census data shows immigrants are better educated than average Americans,” says Vivek Wadhwa, co-author and adjunct professor at the Pratt School of Engineering. “No one can refute this data. If the U.S. wants to be a world leader in technology and innovation, then we have to support them.”

The study also found that very few immigrant founders came to the United States with the intention of starting a new company. Around 52 percent came to study, 39.8 percent came for a job opportunity and only 1.6 percent for the sole purpose of entrepreneurship. Immigrants from India, China and Taiwan were interviewed for the survey, but Indians founded more companies than any other group combined. . . .

“As foreign-born engineers start businesses, they collaborate with former classmates and colleagues from their home countries, sharing the business contacts and know-how as well as market information that support entrepreneurial success,” Saxenian says. “Successful entrepreneurs not only contribute to the regional economy, but also become powerful role models and mentors, attracting subsequent generations of immigrants to the area.”

These immigrant-founded high-tech companies are most visible in California but their effects can be seen on the national and international levels since, as the article notes, such entrepreneurs draw resources from all around the world and directly or indirectly attract more highly-educated immigrants to the U.S., all of which lead to numerous benefits for American society.

We should note, as the article does, that such findings do not reflect directly into the current debates on immigration reform. If anything, it strengthens the argument that we should let in more of these highly-educated and skilled immigrants. I certainly do not oppose that particular suggestion, but I do oppose it when it comes at the expense of reducing the number of immigration visas for family reunification, which as I’ve argued before, is a severely short-sighted plan that disproportionately hurts Asian Americans and ignores the significant benefits that family members bring with them to the U.S.

In short, the solution is to keep family reunification immigration visas at their current levels (if anything, they need to be increased to reduce the significant backlog of current applications) and also increase the number of H1-B visas for highly educated immigrants because, as research continues to show, both sets of immigrants produce notable benefits for American society and its economy.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Asian Immigrants and High-Tech Entrepreneurship" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/06/asian-immigrants-and-high-tech-entrepreneurship/> ().

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