We use essential cookies to make Venngage work. By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

Manage Cookies

Cookies and similar technologies collect certain information about how you’re using our website. Some of them are essential, and without them you wouldn’t be able to use Venngage. But others are optional, and you get to choose whether we use them or not.

Strictly Necessary Cookies

Always Active

These cookies are always on, as they’re essential for making Venngage work, and making it safe. Without these cookies, services you’ve asked for can’t be provided.

Show cookie providers

  • Venngage
  • Amazon
  • Google Login
  • Intercom

Functionality Cookies

These cookies help us provide enhanced functionality and personalisation, and remember your settings. They may be set by us or by third party providers.

Show cookie providers

  • Venngage
  • Chameleon
  • Intercom
  • Algolia

Performance Cookies

These cookies help us analyze how many people are using Venngage, where they come from and how they're using it. If you opt out of these cookies, we can’t get feedback to make Venngage better for you and all our users.

Show cookie providers

  • Venngage
  • Mixpanel
  • Intercom
  • Google Analytics
  • Hotjar

Targeting Cookies

These cookies are set by our advertising partners to track your activity and show you relevant Venngage ads on other sites as you browse the internet.

Show cookie providers

  • Google Ads
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Product
  • Templates
  • Learn
  • Pricing
Educational Resources
Help Center
Help Center

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

Written by: Ryan McCready

Feb 07, 2017

Infographics: Why Immigration is Good

Are immigrants really taking away opportunities from other Americans?

The question of whether or not greater restrictions should be placed on legal immigrants entering the USA has been a topic of heated debate for a long time. That debate came to a head with Donald Trump’s 90-day travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

While Donald Trump’s immigration ban was implemented with the intention of increasing anti-terrorist security measures, it plays into the overarching debate of whether or not legal immigrants are a detriment to the American economy, job market, and general wellbeing.

A commonly touted argument is that legal immigrants take job, health and educational opportunities away from American-born citizens. But data collected in those areas has actually shown the opposite.

In fact, in many cases, data overwhelmingly supports why legal immigration is good for creating more jobs, medical resources, and academic achievements. 

For example, the Association of American Medical Colleges has warned that a ban on immigrants will only increase the shortage of doctors in America. And many tech and science professionals have shared their concern that a crackdown on immigrants workers will spark a brain drain in America.

In this article, I will attempt to highlight why immigration is good for innovation. I’ll cover some of the major contributions legal immigrants make to the economic, technological, medical, scientific and cultural growth in America. 


1. Without immigrants, most unicorns would not exist

Do you like using PayPal or Uber? Do you drive (or wish you drove) a Tesla? Without immigration, those companies wouldn’t exist in the first place. And about 40 other billion-dollar American companies would never have been founded, either.

Out of all the “unicorns” (companies worth 1 billion dollars or more), 51% had a founder not born in the USA.

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

And it’s not just the founders; 70% of those unicorns feature immigrant workers in key roles on the management and development teams.

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

What’s more, venture-funded startups with at least one founder born outside of the USA represent a market capitalization of $900 billion.


2. Most immigrant business founders entered the USA on student visas

A popular way for these immigrant founders and other bright innovators to enter the USA is on a student visa. In fact, about half of unicorn founders entered the country on student visas.

For example, David Hindaw, founder of Tanium, was born in Iraq and lived in Israel before coming to study at U.C.-Berkeley. And Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla and PayPal, was born in South Africa, and entered the USA from Canada to study at the University of Pennsylvania. And the Collison brothers, co-founders of Stripe, came from Ireland to study at MIT and Harvard.

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

Student visas not only bring great talent to the USA, they also create lasting bonds with the countries these students came from. 

13 Of the Most Pressing Questions About Refugees Answered With Charts


3. About 33,000 permanent jobs have been created by founders not born in the USA

Companies founded by immigrants have not just added money to the economy, they also have created a ton of jobs.

Around 33,000 permanent new jobs have been created just by 40 of these billion-dollar companies. This does not take into account all the jobs that have been created by serial entrepreneurs and investors like Elon Musk at Tesla, PayPal and SolarCity, or the 160,000+ temporary jobs that have been created by Garrett Camp at Uber, as well.

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

The argument that immigrant founders are job creators is backed up by a study from Funders Club, which found that of the 39 founders studied, there were almost 7,000 jobs created between them. That boils down to around 159 new American jobs created per one founder.


4. There are many new businesses built by immigrants

While we are on the topic of new businesses, it’s important to highlight that this is not limited to successful startups. New businesses and job growth powered by immigration can be seen throughout the market–in fact, there has been a 60% increase in income over the past decade for these immigrant-owned businesses in the USA.

Additionally, about 25% of all new businesses are opened by immigrants, which contributes directly to the US economy and creates even more jobs.


Immigrants are also 200% more likely to start a new business compared to people born in the USA. And about 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by at least one immigrant, or someone who is the child of immigrants.

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation


5. Most green cards are not awarded for economic purposes

Despite how vital immigrants are to job creation and economic growth, the number of green cards issued is proportionately low: only about 7% of all green cards are given out for economic reasons.

Meanwhile, Canada lets in more immigrants for economic reasons than America does, despite only having 10% of America’s population.

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

Other countries have followed suit, with some handing out nearly 50% of all green cards for economic reasons, or by offering more incentives to bring highly skilled workers to their country.

Do you have any relevant stats about immigration? Create a chart and send it to us. We may include it in this article.


6. Economic growth is not just unique to the business world

It is not just highly skilled immigrant workers who create new jobs in America. Even manual labor jobs that are filled by immigrants help stimulate the economy. And there is currently a shortage of manual workers in many states

For each farm job that is filled by an immigrant, there are three jobs created in related industries.

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

But because there are not enough American-born workers to fill these jobs, America needs immigrants more than ever, or they are going to leave billions of dollars and thousands of jobs on the table.


7. Immigrants achieving advanced STEM degrees are driving job growth

Immigrants that hold advanced degrees in STEM fields also contribute to job multiplication. In fact, it only takes one new STEM job held by an immigrant with an advanced degree to create 2.72 new jobs in related fields.

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

That means that any immigrant worker who has achieved a graduate level degree and is allowed to stay in the USA has the opportunity to become a job creator–and a taxpayer.

The types of jobs created by these highly skilled workers are usually high-paying, which brings more money back into the economy and, in turn, more paid in taxes.


8. Immigrants lead the way in new patents and inventions

Not only are immigrants achieving high-level degrees while in school, they are also inventing new technologies along the way.

This research leads to new ideas, patents and even life-changing discoveries that help humankind. Immigrants are involved in 76% of patents from top patent-producing universities in America.  

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

These patents are not just limited to technological inventions: 79% of all pharmaceutical patents are created by a scientist born outside of the USA.

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

More than half of inventors who receive patents are foreign-born, but this group is also the most likely to face visa hurdles. This puts a roadblock on the resources they bring to America with them.


9. Even if immigrants do not have advanced degrees, they are still highly educated

A commonly touted stigma is that many immigrants are uneducated, but that is completely untrue. Many foreign-born people are just as educated, or even more educated, than their American-born colleagues.

When it comes to Americans with a bachelor’s degree, the population of graduates born outside of the USA trail the American-born population by only 1%. In fact, 33% of the population over the age of 25 born in America have a bachelor’s degree, while 32% of foreign-born people in the same age group do.

The situation is swapped for advanced degrees: 12% of the American-born population over the age of 25 have an advanced degree, while 13% of the population outside of the USA in the same age group have one.

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

Plus, the number of immigrants with bachelor’s degrees have almost doubled in the past 20 years: around 50% of all immigrants who came to the US from 2010 to 2015 had a bachelor’s degree. Which is an increase from 27% in 1990, and 33% in 2006!


10. Many Nobel Prize winners are immigrants

In 2016, all six Nobel Prize winners for America were people who were born outside of the USA.

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

And since 2000, about 40% of all Nobel Prize winners have been people born outside of the USA.

15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good For Innovation

Final thoughts

I hope that this information has helped shed light on some of the concerns surrounding immigration facts

This is only a small portion of the data out there that shows the contributions that immigrants have made to the economic, technological, medical and cultural growth of America.

Now, consider what those fields would look like without their contributions.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment.


About Ryan McCready

Ryan McCready went to the University of Arkansas and graduated with a degree in economics and international business. Now instead of studying the economy he writes about everything and enjoys stirring the pot.