TED Conversations

Alex Tabarrok

George Mason University


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Can immigration increase innovation? If so, how?

The US economy is currently stagnating. To what extent could immigration improve (or not) the economy in the short run and what about increasing innovation in the long run? I offer some arguments in my TED e-book, Launching the Innovation Renaissance. I am interested, however, in what TEDsters have to say and in particular on their experiences as both employers, immigrants and competitors!

Jan. 30, 2012, 2:00pm EST/ 11:00am PST


Closing Statement from Alex Tabarrok

Lots of good ideas came up. What struck me most was the importance of maintaining flexible institutions such as a free and open economy and schooling open to all so that immigrants are able to rise and spread throughout society and do not become confined to particular places or professions.

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  • Jan 30 2012: Although I have no academic insight into the subject, I have some personal experience as a child of immigrants (and an immigrant on several occasions). To have innovation through immigration relies on the immigrants skills and capabilities combined with the host society's willingness to accommodate new outlooks and ways of doing things (I don't merely refer to cultural accommodation, even though cultural perception precedes any other form of engagement) I don't think it is possible to look at one aspect while ignoring the other. It is therefore important for societies who want to adopt or continue merit-based immigration scheme to ensure that there are inherent social and cultural mechanism for ideas that enter from the margins (where newcomers usually find themselves).
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      Jan 30 2012: this is an excellent point. Lots of immigration with a hierarchical and closed school system and workforce is a recipe for disaster. I see France as having some of these problems - they have immigration but the immigrants have difficulty integrating and joining the elite/elitist society.

      One advantage of the US is actually that we "revere" money so much - rather than family background!

      Any other ideas on how we can remain open to ideas?

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