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News Release 07-073

Family-Related Issues Top List of Reasons for Migration of Immigrant Scientists and Engineers to the U.S.

One-third of immigrant scientists and engineers come to the U.S. for family reasons.

One-third of immigrant scientists and engineers come to the U.S. for family reasons.

June 28, 2007

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The latest statistics from the National Science Foundation (NSF) reveal that more than one-third of immigrant scientists and engineers report that the most important reason they came to the United States was for family-related reasons (37 percent). Other reasons cited include educational opportunities (30 percent), and job or economic opportunities (21 percent).

The reasons for coming to the United States vary among different groups (by country, age at entry and place where higher education was completed).

"Even for individuals who came to the U.S. to pursue a higher education or to enter the labor force, family-related reasons were still cited as an important factor in the decision to come to the U.S.," said Nirmala Kannankutty and Joan Burrelli, both from NSF's Division of Science Resources Statistics and authors of the report.

There are more than 18.3 million native-born U.S. citizens who are scientists and engineers, while immigrants total more than 3.3 million. Migrants from India, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Philippines, Canada, United Kingdom, Korea and Taiwan make up the majority of those 3.3 million. Those who emigrated from China, Hong Kong or Macau had the highest percentage (75 percent) of individuals with one or more degrees in science and engineering fields.

The majority of immigrant science and engineers in the United States are naturalized citizens (64 percent). In addition, a greater percentage of immigrant science and engineers than U.S. citizens have advanced degrees (49 percent vs. 40 percent), were more likely to have earned their highest degree in a science and engineering field (63 percent vs. 54 percent), and report working in a science and engineering occupation (31 percent vs. 21 percent).

Data are from the 2003 Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System, which integrates three large demographic and workforce surveys of individuals conducted by NSF: the National Survey of College Graduates, the National Survey of Recent College Graduates and the Survey of Doctorate Recipients. These surveys collected data from 102,350 individuals representing a population of about 21.6 million scientists and engineers.

The InfoBrief, Why Did They Come to the United States? A Profile of Immigrant Scientists and Engineers (NSF 07-324), is available on NSF's Division of Science Resources Statistics Web page:


Media Contacts
Dana Topousis, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-7750, email:

Program Contacts
Nirmala Kannankutty, National Science Foundation, 703-292-7797, email:
Joan Burrelli, National Science Foundation, 703-292-7793, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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