How Immigrants Have Contributed To STEM Professions In The US

The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) has released a briefing outlining The Importance of Immigrants to Engineering and Science in America. The report notes some of the deficiencies with the current immigration system and prepared a Senate and House proposal as to how the deficiencies can be repaired. The document served as a reminder of what an impact immigrants have had within the fields of science and technology in the United States.

Immigrants have fostered economic growth that can not only be seen nationally but also internationally. Because the US is a nation of immigrants, the US continues to attract some of the most creative and smartest individuals in the world. The briefing went on to talk about the unforeseen consequences due to underfunding in scholarships, technical innovation, and scientific discovery when it comes to immigrants and immigration policies.

The briefing provided evidence that supports NFAP’s thesis of how laws can play a vital role in how a country benefits from globalization, specifically educational achievements in China and India. Simply, immigration matters. NFAP has cited two changes in legislation that has opened a world of possibilities to many Universities, Research Institutions, and US companies.

The passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 eliminated many of the discriminatory national origin quotas. The US then opened it doors to Asian Immigrants. The Immigration Act of 1990 increased the amount of employment-based green cards. The increase in green cards were one of the key factors in allowing America to obtain talented immigrants from all over the world.

What were the differences when immigration laws begin to welcome some of the world’s most talented individuals? The NFAP begin analyzing this question by citing the number of immigrants that received Nobel Prizes in very strong academic fields.

  1. From 1901 to 1959, there was only one immigrant by the name of William Francis Giauque that received a Nobel Prize for Chemistry. However, from 1960 to 2013, there were 23 immigrants that received a Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
  2. From 1962 to 2013, there were a total of 72 immigrants who received a Nobel Prize in Medicine, Physics, and Chemistry. However, from 1901 to 1959, there were only 25 immigrants that received Nobel prizes.

All of the aforementioned data, shows critical changes in demographics as it relates to STEM professions and how educated immigrants play a vital role in American society.

In 1993, only 23% of the individuals working on their Doctoral Degrees in Engineering and Science were of foreign-born. In 2010, the amount of foreign-born Doctoral Degree candidates for Engineering and Science nearly doubled to 42%.

Of the top seven Cancer research facilities in the United States, 42% of the researchers were born in another country. This includes the University of Texas Cancer Center in which 62% of their top researchers are foreign-born and 56% of the top researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering were born in another country.

The briefing also discusses the vital role of immigrant business owners and how they are one of the driving forces behind our digital economy. The NFAP has made it clear that some type of legislative intervention is needed to continue to attract well-educated immigrants to the United States.

It is clear that immigrants have greatly contributed to the advancement of engineering and science within America. Although immigrants have been a valuable contributor to this country, research has brought forth how significant their contributions have been since the 1960s (when restrictions on immigration was modified) and specifically within the last 20 years (as immigrants have discovered various niches within technology and science). As the US advance into the future, it is predicted that more immigrants will play an extraordinary role in the development of technology and research.

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