Are We on the Verge of an Exodus of Immigrant Entrepreneurs?
The debate has been raging for a while now concerning immigrant entrepreneurs and what could or should be done to keep them--and the jobs they create through their startups--in the U.S. Startup visas and other policies to make it easier for them to stay and start new firms have been a part of numerous pieces of legislation on Capitol Hill.
Apparently, while the debate has continued, more immigrant entrepreneurs are deciding that they are tired of waiting.
A new Kauffman Foundation study finds that the number of high-tech, immigrant-founded startups is on the verge of decline. "America's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Then and Now" shows that the proportion of immigrant-founded companies nationwide has slipped from 25.3 percent to 24.3 percent since 2005. The drop is even more pronounced in Silicon Valley, where the percentage of immigrant-founded startups declined from 52.4 percent to 43.9 percent.
A whiter (but not brighter) Silicon Valley?
"For several years, anecdotal evidence has suggested that an unwelcoming immigration system and environment in the U.S. has created a 'reverse brain drain.' This report confirms it with data," said Dane Stangler, director of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. "To maintain a dynamic economy, the U.S. needs to embrace immigrant entrepreneurs."
The implications of the research findings are the subject of a book recently released by Vivek Wadhwa, director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at the Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University.
The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent, draws on the research to show that the United States is in the midst of a historically unprecedented halt in high-growth, immigrant-founded startups.
"The U.S. risks losing a key growth engine just when the economy needs job creators more than ever," said Wadhwa. "The U.S. can reverse these trends with changes in policies and opportunities, if it acts swiftly. It is imperative that we create a startup visa for these entrepreneurs and expand the number of green cards for skilled foreigners to work in these startups. Many immigrants would gladly remain in the United States to start and grow companies that will lead to jobs."
With funding from the Kauffman Foundation, Wadhwa has launched a website — ImmigrantExodus.com — as a resource for journalists and a voice for immigrant entrepreneurs.
Immigrant founders, who are most likely to start companies in the innovation/manufacturing-related services (45 percent) and software (22 percent) industries, employed about 560,000 workers and generated an estimated $63 billion in sales from 2006 to 2012, underscoring the continuing importance of high-skilled immigrants to U.S. economic expansion.
Immigrant-founded firms were most likely to be located in traditional immigration gateway states: California (31 percent), Massachusetts (9 percent), Texas (6 percent), Florida (6 percent), New York (5 percent) and New Jersey (5 percent).