On Moving

The role of immigration in innovation has gotten a lot of attention this week (ex. from In the Pipeline, Brookings). The piece that resonated a lot to me is this editorial introducing the special issue of Research Policy on immigration.

The authors introduced their article with 4 quotes, which then anchored the different perspectives to explore immigration.

Self-selection among immigrants and role in the diffusion of innovation

“Migration has one characteristic that should make it very effective as a diffusion method. The hardships occasioned with [it] will usually discourage all but the most resourceful, energetic, and courageous. Those who have the hardihood to venture in this way hence are likely to have exactly those human qualities which are most essential to innovating and diffusing”

-Warren C. Scoville (“Spread of Techniques: Minority Migrations and the Diffusion of Technology”, Journal of Economic History 1951: 11/4, p.349)

Arguments against brain-drain and for the value of choice

“… even were it possible to force the professionals to stay at home, it would be a foolish policy. Lack of congenial working conditions, absence of peer professionals to interact with, and resentment at being deprived of the chance to emigrate can lead to a wholly unproductive situation in which one has the body but not the brain. The brain is not a static thing: it can drain away faster sitting in the wrong place than when travelling to Cambridge or Paris!”

Jagdish Bhagwati (In Defense of Globalisation, Oxford University Press: 2007; p.214)

Struggles in assimilating and in being away

“Le véritable lieu de naissance est celui où l’on a porté pour la première fois un coup d’oeil intelligent sur soi-même: mes premières patries ont été des livres, à un moindre degré, des écoles.”
(The real birthplace is where you first took an intelligent look at yourself: my first countries were books, to a lesser extent, schools.)

Marguerite Yourcenar (Mémoires d’Hadrien, Plon: 1951)

Job market

“We hire from the best schools. All the people who go to those schools […] we offer jobs to American, non-American, that’s who we build these product teams around. And so, because we’re in a very competitive business, we don’t compromise on that. Wherever we can get those people, that’s where we create the jobs.”

Bill Gates (National Public Radio interview, March 12, 2008; https://www.npr.org/transcripts/88154016– last visit May 2020)

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