Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs are Abandoning America

In years past, millions of smart, skilled immigrant entrepreneurs – including many from the world’s two most populous countries, China and India – came to the U.S. to get educated and start their own businesses.  Now the turnstiles are rotating the other way.  New research just revealed by the entrepreneurship experts at the highly regarded Kauffman Foundation shows that high-skill entrepreneurs from China and India are exiting the U.S. by the tens of thousands every year.

Why? According to the aptly-named “The Grass is Indeed Greener…” study, it’s because of better professional and economic opportunities in their home countries.  “At the same time the US economic downturn has diminished opportunities for these high-skilled professionals, recent economic and political reforms in their home countries have expanded the appeal of entrepreneurship there,” says Robert Litan, VP of research at Kauffman. “Individual entrepreneurs aren’t driven to maintain the broader economic environment. Instead, they pursue opportunities where the ‘grass is greener.’  The lesson for the United States is that regions that support entrepreneurship will remain important hubs in today’s global economy.”

Wakeup call anyone?  Factors that once drove the vast majority of US-educated immigrants to stay in America rather than return home have given way to startup-friendly business environments in India, China and a variety of other countries. Most returnees say the entrepreneurial advantages have reversed and are now better in their home countries, where their businesses can benefit from lower operating costs, better professional recognition, greater access to local markets and a higher quality of life than they could attain in the US. 

Here are some key findings of the Kauffman “Grass is Greener” study:

  • More than 60% of Indian and 90% of Chinese respondents cited economic opportunities in their home countries as a key factor in motivating the return home.
  • Returnees take pride in contributing to economic development in their home countries. More than 60% of Indians and 51% of Chinese rated this as very important.
  • 56% of Indians and 59% of Chinese said their quality of life back home was better or equal to what they experienced in America.
  • In China, 76% ranked access to local markets as very important. In India, 64% did.
  • Higher salaries were the only advantage the respondents attributed to the US. Sixty-four percent of Indian respondents said their salaries were better in the United States than at home. Forty-three percent of Chinese respondents said that salaries were higher in the United States, while 20 percent said they were about the same.

Click this link for access to the full report in PDF.

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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.

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