More than One-Third of US Innovators Are Immigrants

Posted March 11th, 2016 at 11:48 am (UTC-4)

(FILE) Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla was born in India.

(FILE) Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla was born in India. (AP Photo)

More than one-third of U.S. innovators are foreign born which suggests highly educated immigrants just might be one of America’s most valuable resources.

Despite only making up 13.5 percent of all U.S. residents, 35 percent of those responsible for some of the most important innovations in America are foreign-born people who usually have a PhD in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum was born outside of Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo)

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum was born outside of Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo)

“U.S. innovation really depends on individuals born outside of the U.S.,” said Adams Nager, an economic policy analyst at ITIF. “These are scientists, engineers, people with really, really high education, who’ve made the choice to immigrate to the United States, often seeking the kind of research opportunities, the kind of entrepreneurial opportunities that are offered in the United States that might not have been available in their home country…they bring new ideas and new ways of thinking about things that we desperately need.”

Immigration has been a hot-button issue on the presidential campaign trail, but the candidates rarely distinguish between low-skilled or illegal immigrants, and these high-skilled imports.

The report doesn’t assess the contributions of the former group of immigrants but “it does speak volumes on the value of bringing in the best and brightest engineers from around the world and the benefits that they bring to the U.S. economy,” Nager said. “These immigrants have really profound impacts on the economy and the more of them we can get, the better.”

Source: ITIF

Source: ITIF

The other two-thirds of American innovators are predominately white men, but they’re not necessarily brilliant young college dropouts like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or the late Steve Jobs, who co-founded Apple. It’s practically the opposite. ITIF found the average age of these innovators is 47, and the vast majority of them have at least one advanced degree.

To reach its conclusions, ITIF spoke with almost 1,000 people who’ve won national awards for their inventions, or who have filed for international patents for their innovative ideas in information technology, life sciences or materials sciences, as well as innovators who filed patents for large advanced-technology companies.

It’s a topic of interest for The White House, which has honored immigrant innovators. President Barack Obama talked about reigniting the spirit of innovation during his final State of the Union address in January and planned to participate in this weekend’s South by Southwest conference (SXSW), which features emerging technologies.

The report researchers expected to find low overall involvement by women and U.S.-born minorities, but they were surprised by the extent of that lack of participation. Women make up only 12 percent of U.S. innovators. U.S.-born minorities — including Asians, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and other ethnicities — make up just 8 percent, even though they comprise 32 percent of the total U.S.-born population.

“We have this vast untapped labor pool in African Americans, in Hispanics and in women, who make up 70 percent of the population, who really aren’t tapped at all for creating these types of innovative, marketable products,” Nager said. “There’s nothing about white males, certainly, that would make them inherently any better at innovating than any other group, so if we’re looking to grow the pool of innovators in the future, definitely, greater inclusion among women and minorities is the way to get there.”

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7 responses to “More than One-Third of US Innovators Are Immigrants”

  1. PermReader says:

    Creative immigrants of the past flourish in American freedom air and participated in the tremendous progress of the country. Today`s “progressives” are in reality pseudo-progressives. They try hard to accelerate the progress by ” affirmative action “, radical black movements,faminism , that is the kinship of “affirmative action”. The political collective activity of immigrants, particularily Muslims, does not sponsor their creativity.

  2. There has to be a mistake in this article saying that 17.1% of the foreign born innovators are ‘CHINESE’.
    The Chinese are known as ‘copy cats’.
    It has to be a mistake.

  3. Engineer Farid Muti says:

    the one of immigrant is my father from Afghanistan Professor Dr Mohammad Hassan Muti father Science and Technology and Bs civil engineering and Master Science Engineering and PHD civil engineering and education and Science from USA in 1955 .My father was good friend with president Obama with bill clinton with senator Angus King and senator Tom Allan and chief of staff Lesliee marill and mark outlette congress man john baldacci and House speaker Elizabeth Mitchell ,my father did a lot of good think for afghan community and america community and immigrant community more than enough according to mayor city of portland Maine when he had Interview with my father on Radio MPR .Professor DR Muti past a way on nov 4 2008 in Portland Maine at the age 74 .Nov 4 should to be Holiday in America . Farid Muti

  4. Phil says:

    I read JFKs book on immigration. Acording to him before 1965 our mmigration policy favored Western and Northern europe and this was just
    The reality is that the scientific and industrial revolution started in Great Britian about 4 centuries ago and spread all over western and
    northern europe. Chemistry, Calculus, and Physics were developed there. Electromagnetism was discovered there which led to
    the invention of generators, motors, and transformers and the developmet of electriicity. Electromagnet waves were discovered there.
    This led to the invention of wireless communication.Europeans first used electricity for communications. Internal combustion engines,
    die sel engines, jet engines. turbine engines, bicycles, motorcycles cars, trains. helicopters, jet airplanes. xray. cameras, watches, printing
    presses, EKG and microscopes were all invented in western europe. The first rockets that went into space were developed there.The electron was discovered there and the first ecletronic devices were invented there.The proton and neutron was discovered there and nuclear physics
    was developed there. Nuclear reactors were invented by an italian immigrant, nuclear physicist. The rocket technology that sent americans
    into space came from immigrant german rocket scientists. The first digital computers were invented in western Europe.
    The chemical elements were discovered in europe and chemistry was developed there.
    Our immigration policy was changed by Ted Kennedy to bring people into this country based on chain migration from
    non european countries because our policies had been so racist. So now instead of European rocket scientist, physicist, chemist, and mathmaticians we get third worlld illiteracy. For centuries most of the inventors in the world were white. This seems to contradict Nader
    claim that white males have no more ability to invent than any one else. The inventors, radio, television, telephones, and computers, transistors,and lasers were white.

  5. Alice says:

    “These are scientists, engineers, people with really, really high education, who’ve made the choice to immigrate to the United States, often seeking the kind of research opportunities, the kind of entrepreneurial opportunities that are offered in the United States…”
    We are talking here about legal immigrants as opposed to illegal immigrants/migrants. There is a huge difference. Indeed the US’s obsession debating accepting or rejecting illegal immigrants has push people who want to move to America legally totally off the national agenda. People who who are waiting their turn to immigrate legally to the USA have the skills and drive to help the American economy thrive.

  6. Marcus Aurelius II says:

    The US attracts the most ambitious people in all walks of life like a magnet. They learn quickly that this is where they will have the best chance to exploit their talents and efforts and get rewarded. They also know that it is a relatively safe and free place to live. Many of the greatest minds migrated to the US for this reason. There are so many you could hardly count them all but if I had to choose just one, it would be Nicola Tesla who IMO invented the modern world as we know it. Without his inventions and genius none of what came afterwards could have happened. Too bad he was ripped off, cheated, swindled and died broke thanks to the likes of scoundrels like Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse.

  7. Madsen says:

    American kids seem to have lost the hunger to succeed, that immigrants and first generation Americans seemed to have. Too many kids today are content with just getting by in school, and having more time to entertain themselves.
    Hopefully, we will always have immigrants.

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