Social Policy & Politics Program | Report

Becoming a Magnet for Global Talent

by Hazeen Ashby, Lanae Erickson Hatalsky and Jim Kessler

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From 1900 to 2000, the U.S. became home to 47.2 million legal immigrants—far more than any other country. During the same period, the U.S. economy grew by nearly 25-fold, we won two World Wars and a Cold War, and our middle class became the envy of the world. Immigrants—whether it was Albert Einstein and Andrew Carnegie or millions of factory workers, farm workers, cooks, and construction workers—were a huge part of America’s 20th century success story.

Today, we are an increasingly service, knowledge, and innovation led economy. Even our manufacturing jobs require a great deal more skill because we do not make socks anymore—we make finely tuned, high-end products. To maintain our global dominance and strengthen our economy today, U.S. immigration policy must not only maintain its current levels of legal immigration, but it must also be restructured to attract foreign-born intellectual capital to facilitate innovation and job creation. In this report, we argue that immigration reform must be a central component of long-term U.S. economic growth.


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