I read with interest an article in the NY Times by David Leonhardt entitled, Lost Einsteins: The Innovations We’re Missing; the basis for the Article is a study by The Equality of Opportunity Project. The study seeks to analyze the lives of more than one million inventors in the United States to understand the factors that determine who becomes an inventor in America. The findings reveal:
there are many “lost Einsteins” – women, minorities, and children from low-income families who would have had high-impact discoveries had they been exposed to innovation while growing up. If these groups invented at the same rate as white men from high-income families, we would have four times as many inventors in America today.
However, in limiting its scope, the study states:
We restrict the sample to children who are citizens in 2013 to exclude individuals who are likely to have immigrated to the U.S. as adults, for whom we cannot measure parent income.
While informative, I believe this study does not explore all the reasons why America is currently lacking in the rate of innovations. I am sure these numbers would be significantly higher if we consider the number of immigrant inventors who have been kept away from entering the U.S. For instance, instead of four times, we may be looking at sixteen times the number of inventors in America today. I find support for this statement in another study that was performed by the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled, How Much Does Immigration Boost Innovation? The abstract of the survey states:
We measure the extent to which skilled immigrants increase innovation in the United States by exploring individual patenting behavior as well as state-level determinants of patenting. The 2003 National Survey of College Graduates shows that immigrants patent at double the native rate, and that this is entirely accounted for by their disproportionately holding degrees in science and engineering. These data imply that a one percentage point rise in the share of immigrant college graduates in the population increases patents per capita by 6%.
Clearly, the need of the hour is a study that expands its scope to include not merely the minorities, women and low-income families, but the potential for inventive growth if America enlisted the support of highly qualified immigrants.
In fact, a NFAP Policy Brief reveals that in 2016, all 6 American winners of the Nobel Prize in economics and scientific fields were immigrants. The link between innovation and immigration was best summed up by James Fraser Stoddart, a winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and a professor at Northwestern University, who was born in Scotland.
Professor Stoddart made an urgent appeal by saying, “I think the resounding message that should go out all around the world is that science is global.” He went on to add that American scientific establishment will only remain strong, “as long as we don’t enter an era where we turn our back on immigration.” And that the United States should be “welcoming people from all over the world, including the Middle East.”