Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Study shows that Immigrant entrepreneurs innovate at higher rate than U.S. citizens

When Sara Itucas was a young girl, she watched her family navigate the perilous and notoriously bureaucratic U.S. immigration system. Itucas and her family came to the U.S. from the Philippines when she was 5, and from a young age she saw how convoluted the immigration process was.

“Watching my mom go through the immigration process was really stressful for our whole family,” Itucas said. “It was so complicated, and we didn’t speak English that well.”

When Itucas grew up, she decided to do something to make the process easier. She and Todd Haines founded LegalPad, a startup meant to simplify the visa application process. “I wanted to give other people that opportunity I had,” Itucas told NBC News. “LegalPad aims to simplify the process and educate people so they are more empowered to help themselves.”

Itucas is far from the only immigrant founder of a venture capital-backed startup in the U.S, a 2016 report by the National Foundation for American Policy said that immigrants had founded more than half of America’s startups valued at or over $1 billion. More recently, a working paper from researchers at George Mason University said that immigrant-owned firms in the tech industry had “uniformly higher rates of innovation” than firms run by U.S. citizens in 15 of the 16 measures they surveyed.

Tech companies and executives have been vocal about immigration issues, particularly since Trump took office. Ian Hathaway, the lead researcher at the Center for American Entrepreneurship and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, reacted to the new study with “zero surprise.”

“There aren’t a lot of things that economists agree on, but one thing they do agree on is the “universal positive benefit” immigrants have on the economy and entrepreneurship” he said. Despite the success of immigrant entrepreneurs, their journey to founding U.S. startups is not without difficulty.

“The U.S. is intentionally making it much harder for the best skilled people to come to our country and build great companies,” Hathaway said. “That’s a deliberate decision of our current administration and leadership structure in Congress.”