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Cost of doing business

August 13, 2010

So for now the most egregious parts of Arizona's new discrimination law is being held in limbo awaiting appeals. Along the lines of that this article looked at what metro areas actually had the highest numbers of immigrants. Here's the list so you don't have to scroll through their gallery:
  1. Miami-Ft Lauderdale
  2. San Jose-Sunnyvale
  3. LA-Long Beach
  4. San Francisco-Oakland
  5. NY-Long Island
  6. Chicago
  7. Dallas-Fort Worth
  8. Washington DC-Arlington-Alexandria
  9. Houston
  10. Las Vegas
  11. Riverside-San Bernadino
  12. San Diego
  13. Sacramento
  14. Phoenix
  15. Boston
  16. Orlando
  17. Seattle
  18. Austin
  19. Atlanta
  20. Denver
So Phoenix does make the list of the top 20, but Florida has two, Texas has three and California a whopping six. In fact, every major metropolitan area in Florida, Texas and California is represented here. There's no Tuscon on the list so you'd think Arizona would have less of a problem with it. But of course it always comes down to politics. The article mentioned an older article which talked about immigrants leaving the US.
You might think the recession or visa issues would be the reason they'd leave, but surprisingly most returned home to be closer to family or for better job opportunities in their country of origin. Both articles worry about the brain drain of these immigrants, citing these statistics: 
Despite the fact that they constitute only 12% of the U.S. population, immigrants have started 52% of Silicon Valley's technology companies and contributed to more than 25% of our global patents. They make up 24% of the U.S. science and engineering workforce holding bachelor's degrees and 47% of science and engineering workers who have PhDs. Immigrants have co-founded firms such as Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), eBay (EBAY), and Yahoo! (YHOO).
Once again I'm not as worried as everyone else is. I do think as a country we're stronger because of our immigrant population but if the economy is going to encourage these people to leave that's how capitalism works. If something like 70,000 people a year are brought in H1B Visas it's because companies have found that to be the most economical choice. It's cheaper to bring someone in who's already trained and usually willing to work for less than a highly skilled US employee would be. So if there's a shortage, the obvious solution is to make sure we're growing our domestic population of scientists and engineers. But I know plenty of people out of work right now in both fields and the pay is just not what you'd think it would be after that many years in school nor is the career security there.
So I'm not going to cry over the loss of highly skilled immigrants. A stronger middle class in China and India should theoretically be a good thing for the US economy. We need to start exporting more goods or providing more services to other countries and when they can continually underbid us that's not going to happen. But when they have a middle class that wants our goods and services it's a more balanced economy for everyone. And if their immigrants would rather go home right now that's fine. Once supply of these highly skilled workers actually drops a bit pay will have to come up and then Americans will go for those careers. But right now, I don't blame them for choosing something else more reliable or at least consistent in better pay. But maybe I'm missing an angle here?
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