NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 25, 2005

The fact that China is producing far more engineers and scientists than the United States is often cited as a major threat to America's continued prosperity. But regardless of how many engineers China is turning out, the important fact is that we in the United States are not doing all we should to secure our future. Kids are less enthusiastic about math and science than those of previous generations and as result, companies have relied on immigrants, say Carl Shramm and Robert Litan of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Shramm and Litan say despite our reliance on immigrants, political support for generous immigration laws is waning. This is unwise:

  • Denying visas to talented students constitutes cutting off our nose to spite our face; it is time not only to ease up on restrictions, but also encourage the best scientific brains in the world to come to the United States to study.
  • If we do not, then Europe, Australia and Japan will welcome the talent we are passing up, as they already do now.
  • Our goal should be to get foreign-born scientists to stay not temporarily but permanently by granting citizenship to foreign students who receive a graduate degree in math or science from an accredited U.S. university.

Reforming immigration policy is only half the story, however. In the long run, we must encourage more of our own youth to choose technical careers by promoting the link between science and entrepreneurship in the schools.

Educators must lead the way, teaching today's students about the achievements of great techies like Bill Gates, Gordon Moore, Andy Grove, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Shramm and Litan believe if young people understood the opportunities that await them, surely more of them would pursue scientific studies.

Source: Carl Schramm and Robert Litan, "Foreign Students Who Study Engineering Deserve Citizenship," Inc. Magazine, October 2005.

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