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The Roles of Immigrants and Foreign Students in US Science, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship$
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Ina Ganguli, Shulamit Kahn, and Megan MacGarvie

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226695624

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226695761.001.0001

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Are Foreign STEM PhDs More Entrepreneurial?

Are Foreign STEM PhDs More Entrepreneurial?

Entrepreneurial Characteristics, Preferences, and Employment Outcomes of Native and Foreign Science and Engineering PhD Students

(p.207) 8 Are Foreign STEM PhDs More Entrepreneurial?
The Roles of Immigrants and Foreign Students in US Science, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

Michael Roach

Henry Sauermann

John Skrentny

University of Chicago Press

Research shows immigrants to the U.S. contribute to innovation and are more likely than natives to become startup founders. This may reflect labor market conditions and constraints related to visa regulations, or individual attributes such as ability or preferences for risk. Despite progress in understanding immigrant entrepreneurs, little attention has been paid to startup employees who “join” founders in their entrepreneurial efforts. We draw on unique longitudinal data from over 5,600 foreign and native STEM PhD students at U.S. research universities to examine entrepreneurial characteristics and career preferences prior to graduation, and founding and employment outcomes after graduation. We find that foreign PhD students differ from native PhD students with respect to individual characteristics typically associated with entrepreneurship including risk tolerance, preference for autonomy, and interest in commercialization. Foreign PhD students are more likely to express interest in becoming a founder or a startup employee before graduation, but they are less likely to become founders or startup employees in their first industry job after graduation. More nuanced analyses show these patterns hold primarily for foreign PhDs from China and India, while foreign PhDs from Western countries are similar to native PhDs with respect to career interests and employment outcomes.

Keywords:   international PhD students, science and engineering workforce, entrepreneurship, career preferences, science policy, immigration policy, economics of science

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