This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

September 30, 2009

US Brain Drain

More than 50 percent of the science graduate students in the United States are foreign-born. Due to a lack of emphasis on the STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math) subjects and the fear that the curricula will be too challenging, native-born students have passed up these post-college options. Filling the void have been the foreign-born for whom a US graduate degree was and is a meaningful ticket to a prosperous future.

A trend we forecast numerous times is now official: Within the next five years, hundreds of thousands Chinese and Indian immigrants who in the past would have stayed and worked for US companies will go home permanently. This history-making trend was recently revealed in a recently released study, Professor Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University. The Brain Drain is already affecting US companies and will have increasingly devastating consequences.

There are several reasons why this homecoming is taking place. First, there are increasing job opportunities for them at home. In the last two years, the economies in India and China both grew much faster that the US. Not only are they welcomed with open arms, but because they have studied abroad, they have a better understanding of how to do business in the US. China even offers financial assistance and housing incentives to lure skilled workers home.

Second, because the Asian cultures are so different from those of the US, there is a strong comfort factor that is missing for workers choosing to stay. They miss their loved ones and rarely enjoy the same support systems.

Finally, US immigration laws and attitudes (fueled by 9/11 and recent economic challenges) discourage immigrants from staying. The now long and arduous process of obtaining one of the relatively few H1B visas or applying for green card status dishearten even the most enthusiastic. Though Wadhwa only studied students from Asian countries, the same situations apply to graduate students from South America, Africa, and the Middle East.

The good news is that we believe that once the US economy really recovers, the rate of departure will slow somewhat; however the cultural and home economic factors will remain.


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