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Noah Smith

U.S. Needs More Skilled Immigrants From Two Countries

Some of the most ambitious and talented people from India and China want to be Americans.  

Born in India, runs Google.

Born in India, runs Google.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The U.S. is still a land of opportunity for immigrants. That is the implication of a new research paper by economists Ran Abramitzky, Leah Platt Boustan, Elisa Jácome and Santiago Pérez.

Using historical Census data to compare the incomes of immigrant fathers and their native-born sons, the economists found that the second generation has been just as capable of moving up the economic ladder in recent decades as they were a century ago. Looking at second-generation American men whose immigrant fathers were at the 25th percentile of income — in other words, fairly poor — they found that they tend to climb higher than their poor counterparts whose fathers were born in the U.S. And for most countries the researchers could measure, immigrant upward mobility is greater now than it was a century ago: