Give us your energetic, your geniuses …

To heck with the tired, poor and huddled. Give Us Your Geniuses, write Adam Ozimek and Noah Smith in The Atlantic. From the earliest days, the U.S. has enjoyed “the ability to attract and retain a huge number of the world’s best and brightest,” they write. We drew smart Scots, “the intellectual and technological elite of the British Empire.” In early 1900s and he Nazi era, a “windfall” of Jewish immigrants yielded scientists and entrepreneurs.

In the late 20th Century, a wave of immigration from Taiwan did the same, giving us (for example) the man who revolutionized AIDS treatment (David Ho), as well as the founders of YouTube, Zappos, Yahoo, and Nvidia. In fact, immigrants or the children of immigrants have founded or co-founded nearly every legendary American technology company, including Google, Intel, Facebook, and of course Apple (you knew that Steve Jobs’ father was named Abdulfattah Jandali, right?).

Taking many more high-skilled immigrants is a no-brainer, they argue.

High-skilled immigrants are not just good at their jobs. They create jobs. . . More than half of the start-ups in Silicon Valley, for instance, were started by immigrants, along with 25% of venture-backed companies that went public between 1990 and 2006.

In addition, high-skilled immigrants are innovators as well. Economists Jennifer Hunt and Marjolaine Gauthier-Loiselle find that a 1% increase in the share of immigrant college graduates in the population increases patents per capita by as much as 9-18%, after accounting for the “positive spillovers” by which HSI boost innovation by native-born inventors.

Living in Silicon Valley, I know many high-tech entrepreneurs from the three I’s, Israel, Ireland and India. These are very smart people with very smart children. My husband, who’s helped start several Silicon Valley companies, has worked with many Indians, quite a few Italians, Chinese, of course, and, well, you name it.

About Joanne


  1. I understand that Canada has been prioritizing high-skilled people in their immigration policy for quite a while. Certainly, in terms of economic benefit, allowing chain migration of low-skilled people does not make sense.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      It doesn’t make sense in a welfare state when those immigrants are likely to consume more resources than they contribute.

      Now, pre-New Deal, it made sense to import cheap labor during industrialization. It lead to productivity. Previous waves of immigration to the US had access to public education but few other welfare benefits.

      • Wrong way round. It’s increasing productivity that lowers prices increasing the market resulting in greater demand for labor.

        Of those immigrants, very few had the time to enjoy the boundless benefits of the public education system. They were too busy making a living. It was their kids who enjoyed those dubious benefits proving that public education isn’t a driver of economic expansion but the result. More recently China’s proven the same point.

  2. Ponderosa says:

    Wait, I thought Asian school systems couldn’t produce innovative thinkers!

    Just read about a book that compares Chinese and American school systems called Educating Young Giants by Nancy Pine. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  3. Thank you for this piece. I am an immigrant and have often thought about that status. What does it mean? I came to America in elementary school with my widowed mother and brother. Our goal was to make it. To learn English fast. To become American. To contribute to this great land of opportunity.

    I will always remember my first Thanksgiving–just 5 months after we got off the boat in Hoboken, New Jersey. I could already read a poem in English by then! For me, it’s been an uphill love affair with this country ever since–with all sorts of ups and downs, of course.

    Yes, bring on the energetic, smart, and ambitious immigrants. It helps our nation thrive.