I think it’s fair to say that immigrants have long been positive contributors to the US economy. In recent years, highly skilled immigrants have filled high demand jobs in science, technology, and health care related fields. Many of these immigrants have attended US universities and have advanced degrees. They are relatively well positioned in US society, so why would they leave?
According to Vivek Wadhwa in this article from business Week, the pull to emigrate (Remember emigration with an “E” means exit.) back to their countries of origin has several origins. The researchers on Wadhwa’s team, surveyed Chinese and Indian emigrants. Some reasons given were personal and cultural,
Returnees cited language barriers, missing their family and friends at home, difficulty with cultural assimilation, and care of parents and children as key issues.
Another factor for the return was bureaucratic barriers that visa seekers faced in the US.
However, there were several pull factors that lead emigrants to feel they would have more opportunities in their countries of origin:
Eighty-seven percent of Chinese and 79% of Indians said a strong factor in their original decision to return home was the growing demand for their skills in their home countries. Their instincts generally proved right. Significant numbers moved up the organization chart. Among Indians the percentage of respondents holding senior management positions increased from 10% in the U.S. to 44% in India, and among Chinese it increased from 9% in the U.S. to 36% in China. Eighty-seven percent of Chinese and 62% of Indians said they had better opportunities for longer-term professional growth in their home countries than in the U.S. Additionally, nearly half were considering launching businesses and said entrepreneurial opportunities were better in their home countries than in the U.S.
The researchers don’t mention discrimination here in the US as a factor, but these statistics don’t preclude it as a possibility. In previous studies, many Asian Americans, from both immigrant and non-immigrant backgrounds have reported difficulties in promotions. These difficulties can be related to immigration status, ethnicity, or race.
Given the terrible state of the economy, I wonder if the sacrifice of leaving one’s culture and family isn’t being offset by financial rewards here in the US. I’ve also read recent reports about a decline in remittances sent to Mexico and other countries. This could mean either immigrants are living here but keeping money for themselves and/or immigrants are returning to their home countries. Then again, these trends may have been happening even without the economic down turn since the economies in places like India and China are rapidly expanding.