Immigration and "The Great Race for Brains"

While the new Arizona illegal immigration law has sparked so much controversy on moral and racial grounds, there’s also an economic impact. Last week, Ben Wildavsky, a senior fellow at the Kauffmann Foundation, released a book that describes the US’ historical success at attracting bright students from all over the world. However, while American universities are educating much of the world’s best talent, US immigration laws may the pushing the freshly-trained minds outside of the nation’s borders.

From RealClearMarkets:

“America can attract the best global minds as students, but to keep them here and reap the benefits of our investment in their education and productivity, we need to reform our immigration law. It can be difficult for a bright person overseas to get a U.S. visa, even after being accepted by a first-rank university and given a scholarship. Many more obstacles need to be overcome for newly-graduated women and men who want to stay here.

“While at U.S. News, Wildavsky oversaw the magazine’s closely watched, if controversial, annual U.S. college and university rankings, and his new book places American higher education in its larger international context. The Great Brain Race shows ‘the importance of the free-flow of ideas and people to universities and businesses,’ as Wildavsky told me in a telephone conversation this week.

“Wildavsky visited universities all over the world in the course of his research, and reports on the fierce competition among them for the best students. He writes that ‘National borders are simply less relevant than they once were. Student and faculty mobility has exploded. Cross-national research collaboration is more common than ever.'”

Clever young talent drawn to the US receives education, time, energy, and scholarships that are often supported in part by the US taxpayer. Then, just when students graduate and are ready to give back to the society that supported their development, they often get pushed out. It hardly seems like the best way to build the America Inc. of tomorrow in a more globally-integrated economy. Bright, entrepreneurial people with degrees from top US universities are often the kind that are likely to create new business, jobs, and additional wealth for the nation.

You can read more on the topic in RealClearMarkets coverage of immigration and the great race for brains.


Rocky Vega,
The Daily Reckoning