Survey on Indian and Chinese immigrants/returnees

Wadhwa, V., Saxenian, A., Freeman, R. B., & Gereffi, G. (2009). America's Loss is the World's Gain: America's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Part 4. Available at SSRN:

This just landed in my inbox... I've been wondering for a long time where to find numbers on Indians returning to India from the US. There is still no comprehensive data, but Wadhwa et al. have been interviewing Indian and Chinese students and alumni of US universities for several years and put together a decent sample.

The study is skewed towards the most highly educated immigrants/returnees. These are the people most likely to contribute disproportionately to science and technology in the countries where they choose to live.

Here are some highlights:

We find that, though restrictive immigration policies caused some returnees to depart the United States, the most significant factors in the decision to return home were career opportunities, family ties, and quality of life.

Immigration to the US and back to the home country appears to be driven by very similar (though not exactly the same) reasons.

The returnees cited career, education, and quality of life as the main reasons to come to the United States.
- Amongst the strongest factors bringing these immigrants to the U.S. were professional and educational development opportunities. Of Indian and Chinese respondents, 93.5 percent and 91.6 percent respectively said that professional development was an important factor, and 85.9 percent and 90.5 percent respectively said that educational development was important in their decision to migrate to the United States.
- Other key factors were quality-of-life concerns, better infrastructure and facilities, and better compensation. The majority (67.4 percent of Indians and 69.1 percent of Chinese) said that the availability of jobs in their home countries was not a consideration in their decision to migrate to the United States.

Returnees cited career and quality of life as the main reason to return to their home country rather than stay in the United States.
- The commonest professional factor (86.8% of Chinese and 79.0 percent of Indians) motivating workers to return home was the growing demand for their skills in their home countries.
- A significant majority (84.0% of Chinese and 68.7 percent of Indians) believed that
their home countries provided better career opportunities. Furthermore, 87.3 percent of Chinese and 62.3 percent of Indians saw better career opportunities in their home countries than in the United States.
- Financial compensation was a factor important to 62.1 percent of Chinese and 49.2 percent of Indian returnees.

Family considerations are strong magnets pulling immigrants back to their home countries. Care for aging parents was considered by 89.4 percent of Indians and 79.1 percent of Chinese respondents to be much better in their home countries. Family
values were also considered to be better in their home countries by 79.7 percent of Indians and 67.0 percent of Chinese. Additionally, 88.0 percent of Indians and 76.8 percent of Chinese reported that the opportunity to be close to family and friends was better at home.

Indians, in particular, believe that their quality of life is better in India than in the US, and that India provides their children with a better environment in terms of emotional growth and education.

While visa issues were not cited as a main driver of the decision to return home, they were often mentioned as a significant difficulty of settling in the US and exacerbating the distance to family and friends by restricting travel.

Once they are back in their home country, returnees tend to do well, advancing faster in their careers than they would have in the US. They view financial compensation (adjusted for cost of living) and career appreciation as better than in the US. However, they also face significant difficulties from reverse culture shock to infrastructure problems and pollution.

26.4 percent of Chinese and 26.5 percent of Indian returnees indicated that it was highly unlikely that they would return to the US.

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