Reverse Migration

Kirk Semple has a thought provoking article in The New York Times titled Many U.S. Immigrants’ Children Seek American Dream Abroad.

At first I was somewhat shocked by the idea that the children of immigrants, many of whom had parents who had sacrificed so much to come to America, would want to go back to the country, such as China and India, that their parents had left behind. But apparently it’s happening.

As Semple writes:

“In growing numbers, experts say, highly educated children of immigrants to the United States are uprooting themselves and moving to their ancestral countries. They are embracing homelands that their parents once spurned but that are now economic powers.”

According to Edward J. W. Park of Loyola Marymount University, the migration is not just due to the choices of individuals, but the fact that overseas governments are actually offering employment, investment, tax, and visa incentives.

In my article How Do You Make An Intellectual Dream Team? I discussed how many talented immigrants who come to America end up having talented children, which has been named The Multiplier Effect by Stuart Anderson. These talented kids grow up and contribute to an essential part of the intellectual and inventive talent base of our country. According to Anderson, "foreign-born high school students make up 50 percent of the 2004 U.S. Math Olympiad's top scorers, 38 percent of the U.S. Physics Team, and 25 percent of the Intel Science Talent Search Finalists."

The examples of immigrant children who are leaving America provided in the New York Times article appeared to be concentrated in the business areas, but I wonder to what extent America might also be losing some of its math and science talent to other countries. This may not be good for our country because America currently depends to a great deal on talented immigrants and to a lesser extent on the children of those immigrants in math and science.

Ironically, when these American children initially told their foreign born parents that they wanted to go back to the countries from which their parents had left, they met resistance. After all, these parents had sacrificed so much for these children to have more opportunities. But then after the parents learned that the kids were chasing opportunity that was real, they didn’t continue to hold them back. Which shows that what was known as "the American Dream" is simply becoming "the Dream" that can be pursued anywhere in the world that has opportunity.

And in a way, it makes sense that the children of immigrants would be willing to be immigrants themselves. It is not just anyone who is willing to leave the comfort of their home and of their country to seek uncertain opportunities in another land on the other side of the planet. Perhaps what immigrant parents have found is that their children are much more similar to them then they’d like to admit.

© 2012 by Jonathan Wai

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