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Study: Immigrants outpace native-born citizens in tech innovation

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation reported that highly educated immigrants play an outsized role in driving technological progress in the U…

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The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) today reported that highly educated immigrants play an outsized role in driving technological progress in the United States, while women and minorities are vastly underrepresented among the country’s innovators. 

ITIF developed an in depth survey that gathered responses from more than 900 individuals who have won prestigious awards for their creations or have applied for international patents likely to have significant economic impact.

The study found that the demographics of U.S. innovation to be strikingly different from the demographics of the country as a whole, even from the demographics of college-educated Americans, or those with a Ph.D. in science or engineering.

According to the findings, more than one-third of U.S. innovators, 35.5 percent were born outside the country, even though first-generation immigrants comprise just 13.5 percent of the total population. Another 10 percent of U.S. innovators had at least one immigrant parent. Despite comprising 13 percent of the native-born population of the U.S., African-Americans comprise just half a percent of U.S.-born innovators.

“There are some well-established stereotypes about who innovates in America, but it turns out many of them are wrong,” Adams Nager, ITIF economic policy analyst and the study’s lead author, said in a press release. “People may think technological innovation is driven by precocious college dropouts at startup companies, like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. In reality, America’s innovators are far more likely to be immigrants with advanced degrees who have paid their dues through years of work in large companies. Unfortunately, one stereotype that turns out to be true is that women and U.S.-born minorities are significantly underrepresented. In fact, the extent of that gap is so stark that it caught us by surprise.”

 To better explain of who contributes most to technological innovation in the U.S., ITIF’s report was authored by Nager along with George Mason University Professor David Hart, ITIF Vice President for Global Innovation Policy Stephen Ezell, and ITIF President and Founder Robert D. Atkinson. After providing a review of existing literature on the subject, the authors presented original findings on the demographics of innovation in America including the gender, ethnicity, country of origin, education, and age of the individuals involved.

You can read the report in its entirety by visiting the ITIF’s main site. 

 
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