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The American Brain Drain

Many of America’s best and brightest college graduates are not using their talent to profit America, but rather to hurt it


Jack Hodapp

merica needs to clog the brain drains that are sucking up its top students. Many of America’s best and brightest students are applying their talent in ways that hurt, rather than profit America. There are two main so-called “brain drains” weakening America as college students graduate: the return of international students to their homelands and the flocking of elite students into the financial industry. The International Brain Drain Brain drain has been a common term in international economics for decades, but not until recently has it become a cause for concern in the eyes of Americans. Brain drain is defined as the emigration of a large group of individuals with technical skills or knowledge. When inbound, brain drain has always remained essential to the strength of the country. America, the land of opportunity, has long been a prime destination for foreigners. Countries around the globe have had their top minds “stolen” by the U.S. These “stolen” minds have flourished and become some of the most successful people in America: Pierre Omidyar of France founded EBay, Sergey Brin of Russia co-founded Google, and Jerry Yang of Taiwan co-founded Yahoo. However, the tightening of immigration policies is beginning to destroy this advantage, creating a reverse brain drain as high-end talent leaves the U.S. Who is leaving the U.S.? The massive numbers of international students who enter America for college are increasingly choosing to say “goodbye America,” “gàobié měiguó,” “alavidā amērikā,” and so on as they exit the country upon graduation. In 2010, over 690,000 international students were studying in America. These international students take up an enormous part of the American education system, obtaining more than half of the doctorates earned by American universities in math, computer science, and engineering. Historically, most of these students would stay in America after finishing college: five years after graduation, 92% of Chinese students (128,000 total) and 81% of Indian students (105,000 total) were still in America. A combination of increased standards of living back home and restrictive American immigration policies have flipped the situation around. The booming economies and improved research and development of countries such as China and India, along with the prospects of living near family have led many of America’s top college graduates to return home, bringing their skills and ideas with 10


Top 10 Most Popular College Majors in 2011 Business Management  and  Administration General  Business Accounting Nursing Psychology Elementary  Education Marketing  and  Marketing  Research   General  Education English  Language  and  Literature Communications

8 5 5 4 4 4 3 3 3 3


The top three most popular majors in 2011 related to the business/financial industry, one of the “brain drains” of the nation. them. While America clearly cannot inhibit all of this, a loosening of rigid immigration policies could slow this trend. The United States limits the number of foreigners who seek careers in the U.S., creating a logjam of applicants struggling to gain citizenship. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, a highly skilled Indian national could wait up to 70 years for permanent status. Inventors, investors, and entrepreneurs who would love to enrich America, are being turned away. On top of that, the years the country just invested in the student’s education are wasted. If this movement continues, the strength of America is destined to fall. Immigrants have accounted for 52% of Silicon Valley start-ups, 25% of US global patents, and 47% of PhD students. Is the country beginning to lose sight of its roots stemming from immigration? Canada, Australia, and other countries have policies designed to attract and keep skilled immigrants. The US, however, is sending the best of the best back home, so they can compete with America. The American business community is insisting that President Obama takes action to keep these well-abled brains in the U.S. In rhetoric, Obama agrees that the brain drain is a concern, stating that, “Our future depends


January 2012

on reaffirming America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation.” As mentioned earlier, over 50% of the company founders in Silicon Valley, the epicenter of America’s scientific discovery and technological innovation, are immigrants. In reality, nothing has yet to be done to solve the brain drain problem. Will America still be the most technologically advanced country in 20 years? Not at this rate. Immigration is a tough issue, and there are certainly key disputes over its real effects on the country. Many Republicans have the steadfast opinion that immigration can only be trouble. The chief point against immigration is that immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans. With unwavering views supporting and repealing this argument, you could spend a lifetime studying the complex economics of the situation and fail to find the correct answer. Do immigrants take American jobs away? Yeah, probably. But how many jobs do you think companies such as Google, EBay, and Yahoo have added? And how much have these companies and others alike contributed to America’s economy? In prominent Republican Pat Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025, Buchanan associates continued

NBR Winter 2012 Newsletter  
NBR Winter 2012 Newsletter