Monday, May 23, 2011

12% of Americans Are Immigrants, But 70% of Top Science Students Are Children of Immigrants

From the Executive Summary of the new study "The Impact of the Children of Immigrants on Scientific Achievement in America" by Stuart Anderson of the National Foundation for American Policy: 

"One surprising characteristic unites the majority of America’s top high school science and math students – their parents are immigrants. While only 12 percent of the U.S. population is foreign-born, 70 percent of the finalists in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search competition were the children of immigrants (see chart above). Just 12 of the 40 finalists at this year’s competition of the nation’s top high school science students had native-born parents. While former H-1B visa holders comprise less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, 60 percent of the finalists had parents who entered the U.S. on H-1B visas, which are generally the only practical way to hire skilled foreign nationals. Finalists’ parents sponsored through a family preference category represented 7.5 percent of the total, about four times higher than their proportion in the U.S.

Many immigrant parents place a heavy emphasis on education, particularly in math and science, viewing this as a path to success in America. An important implication of the study is that preventing the entry of H-1B visa holders skilled immigrants, and family-sponsored immigrants would shut off the flow of a key segment of America’s next generation of scientists and engineers - the children of immigrants - because we would not have allowed in their parents. The benefit America derives from the children of immigrants in science and math is an additional advantage the country reaps from being open to talent from around the world. Americans should take pride in our openness to individuals and their children who can succeed in the U.S. without regard to class or place of birth. Liberalizing our nation’s immigration laws will likely yield even greater rewards for America in the future."

From the Conclusion: "The results also should serve as a warning against new restrictions on legal immigration, both family and employment-based immigration, since such restrictions are likely to prevent many of the next generation of outstanding scientists and researchers from emerging in America. The talents possessed by these children of immigrants are a wonderful gift to America, a gift we can all benefit from in the future so long as we can allow talented foreign nationals to come to the United States and pursue their American dreams."


At 5/24/2011 7:19 AM, Blogger juandos said...

The problem isn't 'legal' immigration though, is it?

From LA county supervisor Michael D. Antonovich: February 5, 2010—“Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich released figures from the Department of Public Social Services showing that illegal aliens’ children born in the United States collected nearly $570 million in welfare and food stamps in 2009...

At 5/24/2011 2:12 PM, Blogger Michael Hoff said...

"The results also should serve as a warning against new restrictions on legal immigration..."

At least against restrictions on legal immigration from China and India, judging by the country of origin chart in the article. China had 16 finalists, US 12, India 10, Iran and South Korea 1 each.


At 5/24/2011 6:37 PM, Blogger Cameron Murray said...

I wonder if there are any desirable traits in which this group makes up the bottom 70%. Also, remember that if the parents never immigrated then the top 70% would be local students! Surely that is a better outcome! (note the typed sarcasm).

Seriously, this phenomenon holds in Australia as well. For example, many Asian cultures are hypercompetitive in eduction and students need to spend evenings doing external classes to get ahead in the education arms race. Thankfully this is not the case here yet, but it is a growing trend and one reason that in may area in particular the asian student excel in science and maths.

Of course the flip side is that when you spend 10+ hours of every day from age 4-18 in structured classes focused on narrow fields of study you lose the opportunity to develop social skills and diversify your interests.

No doubt children of immigrants are more motivated generally, but I would hate to see the education arms race, in this extreme form, become common place. I'm a great beleiver in balance and variety in education.

At 5/24/2011 7:47 PM, Blogger Rand said...

The current administration would have you believe that all immigrants speak Spanish.

At 5/24/2011 9:44 PM, Blogger Michael Meyers said...

Enjoy your blog greatly... Thanks...

Should it not be "70% of the Top Science Students.."


At 5/25/2011 9:37 PM, Blogger James said...

What a Bunch of Wimps

What a bunch of wimps you guys are to believe this story. Losers one and all. Lacking in basic patriotism to boot! Why are you so lacking in both pride and basic common sense that you would take this propaganda at face value?

If all these immigrants are so damned smart, why is it neither they nor their ancestors were never able to make their own country worth living in? Where are the great software applications from the countries supplying most of the H-1Bs? The “KILLER APPS” that the U.S. is so great at producing. What great software package was developed in India, by Indians, working for Indians?

Consider the source. This is not an impartial report. Stuart Anderson makes a living lobbying for cheap foreign labor. He was the author of the 1997 report by the Information Technology Association of America lobbying organization, which was the impetus for Congress' enacting the first major H-1B increase, in 1998. Anderson went on to become a Senate staffer, authoring the 1998 and 2000 bills which expanded the H-1B program. The National Foundation for American Policy is actually a one-person operation consisting only of Stuart Anderson. While most researchers find little difference in the achievement of immigrant kids and other Americans, Stuart Anderson has a long history of producing research papers showing that this country is headed downhill without the help of foreign scientist and engineers. Check out the website. Back in 2004 Mr. Anderson released a report “The Multiplier Effect” claiming that the H-1B program is indirectly supplying the U.S. with a population of math and science geniuses--not the H-1Bs themselves, but their CHILDREN. Almost the same thing he finds here.

Look at the data. Almost all of the H-1Bs have degrees in science and engineering. Is it really surprising that they are more interested in science than the general population? What would you expect if the children of American born engineers were compared to the general population? If the high school age children of foreign born University of Michigan economics department faculty knew more about economics than their classmates in high school would that mean that Dr. Mark Perry should be displaced by an H-1B economist from India who is willing to do the jobs for a third less salary? That by the way is perfectly legal. H-1B workers may be hired even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job, and a U.S. worker can be displaced from the job in favor of the foreign worker.

For a more balanced view see the following:

Our Schools vs. Theirs: Averages That Hide The True Extremes
by David Berliner,

Michael Teitelbaum A Do we need more scientists?

Professor Norm Matloff’s Five-minute summary and the much longer Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage


When I was in high school some of my classmates participated in a science fair. Funny thing however, none of the students who entered went on to become scientist or engineers. I went to college with one who tried but flunked out and went into accounting. When I asked why he had spent so much time in things like the science fair he said his parents had pushed him.

At 5/26/2011 4:09 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...


"Lacking in basic patriotism to boot!"

Let me fix that for you:

"Lacking in basic tribalism to boot!"

There. That's better.

At 5/28/2011 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6/15/2011 7:08 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Of course the flip side is that when you spend 10+ hours of every day from age 4-18 in structured classes focused on narrow fields of study you lose the opportunity to develop social skills and diversify your interests.

When pursuing a career the best approach is very simple. Become great at one thing and forget trying to get a diverse set of skills that are middling at best. The big rewards come to those people who do something extraordinary well, not people who are competent at more things but superior at none.

(Americans should think of a Randy Moss type of receiver who can only run one route versus a player of lesser speed/size who runs the entire route tree. Or in baseball think of Prince Fielder, who is only good at one position but can hit the ball a long way versus a John McDonald, who can play multiple positions extremely well defensively but does not hit for power. Or a great striker who can score off set plays versus a wonderful all-around player who is not exceptional at anything.)

Most kids who are motivated and disciplined enough to work very hard will wind up adjusting socially if they are predisposed to it. And I do not see immigrant parents sticking just to math or sciences. If you look around you will also see their kids working hard at piano, chess, swimming, or a number of other activities. They have already learned that social skills and balance also count but are smart enough to still insist that their kids find one thing that they can become great at and keep working on that one thing even when they pursue balance.


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