To Find Work, Immigrants Flee America for China and India

Though the full economic impact will not be known for many fiscal years to come, new studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that immigrants are increasingly returning to their home countries instead of choosing to live and work in the United States.

Harvard professor Vivek Wadhwa in collaboration with the Kaufmann Foundation tracked 1,203 Indian and Chinese immigrants who studied or worked in the United States for a year or more before returning home. The subjects were noted for the advanced degrees they gained or already held from American universities, primarily in management, and their relative youth—most were under 35 years old and unmarried. On their decision to forego staying in the United States, most cited better professional opportunities in India and China, especially in enterpeneurship, and a superior quality of life.

Even a lay reading of an ebb tide of skilled immigrants would suggest it does not bode well for the American economy which has been immigrant dependent since time immemorial. In 2006, immigrant-founded companies based on American soil employed 450,000 workers and generated $52 billion in revenue. If the United States simply becomes a way station to get an education and network before returning home, these revenues will surely go offshore as well

In what could be a double-whammy to the labor force, unskilled workers are also reconsidering putting down roots in the United States. The once coveted jobs in the construction and agricultural sectors have been sliced in the down turn, and Latin American consulates are ponying up for one-way bus tickets home.

Do big thinkers see incentives for immigrants to remain in the United States long-term or does the flagging American economy solidify the reverse immigration trend?

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