Why U.S. Immigration Barriers Matter for the Global Advancement of Science

31 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2021

See all articles by Ruchir Agarwal

Ruchir Agarwal

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Ina Ganguli

University of Massachusetts at Amherst - College of Social and Behavioral Sciences - Department of Economics; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Center for International Development

Patrick Gaule

University of Bath

Geoff Smith

University of Bath

Abstract

This paper studies the impact of U.S. immigration barriers on global knowledge production. We present four key findings. First, among Nobel Prize winners and Fields Medalists, migrants to the U.S. play a central role in the global knowledge network— representing 20-33% of the frontier knowledge producers. Second, using novel survey data and hand-curated life-histories of International Math Olympiad (IMO) medalists, we show that migrants to the U.S. are up to six times more productive than migrants to other countries—even after accounting for talent during one's teenage years. Third, financing costs are a key factor preventing foreign talent from migrating abroad to pursue their dream careers, particularly talent from developing countries. Fourth, certain 'push' incentives that reduce immigration barriers – by addressing financing constraints for top foreign talent – could increase the global scientific output of future cohorts by 42% percent. We conclude by discussing policy options for the U.S. and the global scientific community.

JEL Classification: O33, O38, F22, J61

Suggested Citation

Agarwal, Ruchir and Ganguli, Ina and Gaule, Patrick and Smith, Geoff, Why U.S. Immigration Barriers Matter for the Global Advancement of Science. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3762886 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3762886

Ruchir Agarwal

International Monetary Fund (IMF) ( email )

700 19th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20431
United States

Ina Ganguli

University of Massachusetts at Amherst - College of Social and Behavioral Sciences - Department of Economics ( email )

Amherst, MA 01003
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Center for International Development ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-9066 (Phone)

Patrick Gaule (Contact Author)

University of Bath ( email )

Claverton Down
Bath, BA2 7AY
United Kingdom

Geoff Smith

University of Bath

Claverton Down
Bath, BA2 7AY
United Kingdom

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