Kids of hi-tech immigrants dominate science contest

Kids of hi-tech immigrants dominate science contest

(Va.) Three quarters of the 2016 finalists in the nation’s most prestigious science competitions for high school students were children of workers in the U.S. on temporary high-skilled employment visas.

The National Foundation for American Policy–a Virginia-based non-partisan non-profit research organization–found that of the 40 finalists in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search, 33 participants were first generation children of immigrants, and 30 had parents who were in America on H-1B visas. Seven of the top nine award winners were the children of immigrants.

“These outstanding children of immigrants would never have been in America if we had not let in their parents,” Stuart Anderson, author of the report and executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, said in a statement. “The findings tell us that if we prevent high-skilled foreign nationals from coming to America, we will not only lose their contributions but the significant contributions that will be made by their children.”

The Trump administration set a cap of 85,000 H-1B visas for the new fiscal year as a way to crack down on what it calls an abuse of the system, which allows highly skilled immigrants to enter the U.S. to work in areas that often include education, law, science, technology, engineering or math.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Friday–just four days after opening the new application period–that the cap had been reached.

Anderson found that more than 95 percent of those who have won the Intel Science Talent Search in the last 75 years have pursued science as a career, with 70 percent earning Ph.D.’s or M.D.’s in STEM subjects that are facing shortages of skilled workers.

Parents of the 2016 finalists came from a number of different countries of origin, including China, India, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Taiwan, Nigeria, Singapore and Cyprus. These H-1B visa holders, despite accounting for only 1 percent of the national population, were four times as likely as American-born citizens to have a child as a finalist in the Science Talent Search last year, researchers found.

Seven of the top nine awards were earned by the children of immigrants, including first place prizes for innovation and basic research. One student received an award for developing software that could be used by pharmaceutical companies to fight cancer and heart disease, while another entry offered a less costly alternative to the transparent conductors currently used in touchscreen devices.

Anderson concluded that there were several explanations for the success of these students–especially in math and science fields. First, parents who enter the U.S. with H-1B visas often work in technically advanced fields, and tend to encourage their children to do so as well.

Additionally, the report found that immigrant parents are more likely to reserve praise for actual results opposed to just the amount of time spent on an activity, they tend to have better time management skills than native-born citizens, and they are more likely to gravitate toward careers that rely solely on the job you accomplish rather than on the personal connections you have, such as politics.

The Science Talent Search has been run by the non-profit Society for Science & the Public for more than 70 years. Forty finalists win an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC to present their research and compete for awards of up to $250,000.