Capstones

Graduation Date

Fall 12-31-2015

First Advisor

Fred Kaufman

Subject Concentration

Business & Economics

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Abstract

Immigrants have made outsized contributions to American innovation and entrepreneurship, but the headwinds they face in the U.S. are now driving them to return to their native countries to startup their tech companies.

U.S. immigrants make up only 13% of the country’s overall population, but they have filed over a quarter of the country’s global patent applications, won a third of America’s Nobel prizes in the sciences in the last hundred years and make up over half of all computer science Ph.D. students in U.S. universities. Immigrants also build businesses at twice the rate of native-born Americans, and over the past 20 years, this rate increased 50% while natives’ startup rate decreased 10%.

Yet now a significant number of immigrant entrepreneurs head home to launch their tech startups and are taking with them high-skilled jobs, revenue and the cutting-edge spirit of innovation on which America has historically prided itself.

The decline of American’s imported innovation empire stems from different factors: the emerging economies where many foreign tech entrepreneurs were born are expanding, offering ever-rising standards of living and pools of tech talent at a fraction of New York City or Silicon Valley’s prices. The visa and green card backlog also drives away innovation: stories abound of entrepreneurs who’ve created hundreds of jobs only to be kicked back home when the Department of Homeland Security wouldn’t renew their visa. Finally, anti-immigration rhetoric has exploded during the 2016 presidential campaigns.

Although Congress, President Obama and grassroots efforts in America's Rust Belt are trying to attract and retain immigrant entrepreneurs, an antiquated immigration system, globalization and complex political agendas are driving an immigrant entrepreneur exodus that is accelerating.

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