Foreign Ph.D.s trained at U.S. universities are less likely than their American counterparts to work in start-up companies, according to a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study is based on a survey of 2,324 foreign and American doctoral degree holders who studied STEM fields at U.S. research universities. Among Ph.D.s whose first job is in industrial research and development, just 6.8 percent of foreign Ph.D.s work in a start-up, compared to 15.8 percent of U.S. Ph.D.s. Foreign Ph.D.s are as likely as American Ph.D.s to apply for and receive offers for start-up jobs but are 56 percent less likely to work at a start-up upon receiving an offer.
“This disparity is partially explained by differences in visa sponsorship between start-ups and established firms and not by foreign Ph.D.s’ preferences for established firm jobs, risk tolerance or preference for higher pay,” states the article, which is authored by Michael Roach, the J. Thomas and Nancy W. Clark Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at Cornell University, and John Skrentny, a professor of sociology and director of the University of California, San Diego’s Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research.
“Foreign Ph.D.s who first work in an established firm and subsequently receive a green card are more likely to move to a start-up than another established firm, suggesting that permanent residency facilitates start-up employment,” the article continues. “These findings suggest that U.S. visa policies may deter foreign Ph.D.s from working in start-ups, thereby restricting start-ups’ access to a large segment of the STEM Ph.D. workforce and impairing start-ups’ ability to contribute to innovation and economic growth.”