Why U.S. immigration matters for the global advancement of science

Ruchir Agarwal, Ina Ganguli, Patrick Gaule*, Geoff Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
54 Downloads (Pure)


While the impact of U.S. immigration on innovation in the U.S. has been well-studied, less attention has been paid to the relationship between U.S. immigration and global innovation. This paper fills this gap using novel data on a set of highly talented teenagers— participants in the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO)—and presents three results. First, 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. Second, most of the productivity difference is associated with academics being more productive in the U.S. compared to those who stay home (with differences in entry rates into academia mattering less). Third, there is a large gap between aspirations to move to the U.S. and actual migration: about 2 in 3 of the world's most talented youth from developing countries would like to migrate to the U.S. for their undergraduate studies, but only 1 in 4 do, with financing constraints being a key barrier. A back of the envelope calculation suggests that removing constraints on immigration could increase the global scientific output of future cohorts by up to 50 %.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104659
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number1
Early online date9 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support: No financial support Financial support: Full financial support

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


Dive into the research topics of 'Why U.S. immigration matters for the global advancement of science'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this