America’s Reverse Brain Drain

During the 1990’s America’s business community found comfort in being able to hire foreign workers in many countries – particularly in India and China – to supplement or supplant scientists and mathematicians, and people skilled in technology.

According to a report in USA Today, based on research of Vivek Wadhwa from Duke University, skilled immigrants are returning to their home countries.  Wadhwa projects that in the next five years, 100,000 immigrants will go back to India and an additional 100,000 will return to China.

The report indicates that there are three reasons for the reverse brain drain.  These immigrants in their home country are now seeing career opportunities back home.  The quality of life is better in India and China and cheaper as well.  And, as a result of 9/11 it is increasingly difficult for immigrants to come to the United States.

What are the implications for America’s schools?  American industry has become accustomed to hiring skilled foreign workers.   To a large degree, America’s science and math teachers have not majored nor minored in science or mathematics.  Many individuals trained in math or science went into the more lucrative occupations in industry as well as jobs with better working conditions.  If America’s businesses want people trained in math, science and technology one of the things they will have to do is help create better working conditions for schools as well as insisting that state governments pay K-12 educators more money.