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What Sergey Brin, Vinod Khosla, and An Wang Share

They’re all immigrants who came to America and helped to create important companies: Google, Sun Microsystems and Wang Laboratories.

They’re all immigrants who came to America and helped to create important companies: Google, Sun Microsystems and Wang Laboratories.

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But what if Brin had stayed in Moscow, and Khosla remained in India, and Wang had gone to university in Europe? That’s the provocative question posed by Richard Florida in “America’s Looming Creativity Crisis,” an article in the October issue of the Harvard Business Review. Florida, a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, maintains that “the global talent pool and the high-end, high-margin creative industries that used to be the sole province of the U.S., and a crucial source of its prosperity, have begun to disperse around the globe.”

He notes that several major economies–especially India’s and China’s–have grown to the point where “they can offer great opportunities for people who stay or return home.” Just look at the applications for fall 2004 admission to U.S. graduate schools. The figures show that the number of Chinese applicants is down by 76% and the number of Indian applicants is 58% lower than the previous year.

“The evidence suggests that the country may be losing out on the talents of a host of foreign scientists, engineers, inventors, and other professionals,” writes Florida.

The rejection rate for H-1B visas, which allow professionals who are not U.S. citizens to work in the country for up to six years, increased from 9.5% to 17.8% between 2001 and 2003. And that’s with the overall number of people who are applying for visas down sharply in the wake of Sept. 11. Some 6.3 million people applied for U.S. visas betweent Oct. 2000 and September 2001. But in fiscal 2003, that number fell by more than 40% to 3.7 million, according to a recent New York Times article.

Florida convincingly argues that terrorism is less a threat to the U.S. than the possibility that creative and talented people, like Brin and Khosla and Wang, will stop wanting to live within its borders. What do you think?

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