Thomas Friedman: Immigration is key to economic engine

Business Wire/File

Tom Friedman offered his thoughts on what we need to do to get the economy going in an op-ed piece at the New York Times. His take on how to revive the economy:

"Good-paying jobs don't come from bailouts. They come from start-ups. And where do start-ups come from? They come from smart, creative, inspired risk-takers. How do we get more of those? There are only two ways: grow more by improving our schools or import more by recruiting talented immigrants. Surely, we need to do both, and we need to start by breaking the deadlock in Congress over immigration, so we can develop a much more strategic approach to attracting more of the world's creative risk-takers."

Immigrants have always played a vital role in fueling our entrepreneurial economic engine. Given our need for help in revving up that engine right now, I wish we would take another look at our immigration policy.

The primary reason that we see so many immigrants pursue entrepreneurship is that they are opportunity focused - surveys reveal that this is what drives many of them to leave for a new country. I have to wonder how attractive the US will look in a few years after our mad dash to socialism is fully in force.

When we look within specific ethnic communities in the US, recent immigrants out perform non-immigrants in economic achievements and have higher rates of self-employment than native-born in these ethnic communities.

In Internet-based ventures, immigrant entrepreneurs pursue more aggressive strategy. One study found that 25.4% of engineering and technology companies include at least one founder who was born outside of the US.

Here are a few more quick facts:

  • Immigrants represent 12.5 of all business owners.
  • Immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a business than non-immigrants are.
  • Immigrant business owners are concentrated in certain states, including California, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Hawaii.
  • Mexicans represent the largest number of immigrant business owners, while Greeks, Koreans, and Iranians have the highest ownership rates

In the 1900s we viewed immigrants as a source of cheap labor. Our immigration policy -- or lack thereof -- has reflected this.

To help create jobs and growth we should open our doors to entrepreneurs from around the globe. Current policy makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to enter the US legally. We should be actively recruiting immigrants who want to come to our system of free enterprise to start their businesses, just as we did to bring in the scientists we needed in the 1950s and 1960s to help fight the cold war.

The last great entrepreneurial economic boom was created in large part by first generation Americans and sustained by a large, but controlled, wave of immigration that helped to build an economy that last through most of the 1900s.

In addition to a "green card" for immigrants coming here to work, the US also needs another card (let's color it a "red card" for urgent) to support the flow of legitimate entrepreneurs looking for the freedom this country offers to business owners.

Add/view comments on this post.


The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link above.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.