Immigrants at Ellis Island

Immigration is the key to innovation in America.

Immigrants come to the United States and take menial jobs so that their children have a chance at a better future, he told me. While the jobs they take are below their intrinsic capabilities, they’re focused on giving their children a better life, not personal job satisfaction.

Second-generation children, seeing how hard their parents work to give them an opportunity, in turn work hard at school, where, he noted, they often focus on mathematics and science in pursuit of the economic returns promised by careers in engineering and medicine.

Third-generation kids figure the economic return on effort expended is better for business and legal professionals and pursue those professions instead of technical ones.

By the fourth generation, any immigration-related incentives to work hard are largely nonexistent.

Mike Speiser argues that smart immigration policy will shape America’s success more than broad-based science education. While education and research will prepare a workforce and innovation in specific areas, respectively, the ROI for immigration blows both away.

As an aside, Speiser’s comments about preparing a workforce ring especially true for members of a generation increasingly frustrated with formal education. In a world where knowledge is a little passion and a Google search away, more students (fourth-generation, Mike?) realize education’s role is to program a workforce, not propel you past your classmates to champagne wishes and caviar dreams.

Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly with him.

If we get strategic about immigration, I believe the U.S. can preserve its economic leadership position in the world far longer than anyone currently expects. … It’s time for a more strategic and aggressive immigration policy, one that targets the best and brightest around the globe and makes it easy for them to become permanent residents. We should be recruiting the world’s best talent the same way top companies recruit the best talent.

America’s Secret Innovation Weapon: Immigration