Academic journal article International Journal of Economic Development

Local and Global Networks of Immigrant Professionals in Silicon Valley *

Academic journal article International Journal of Economic Development

Local and Global Networks of Immigrant Professionals in Silicon Valley *

Article excerpt


Entrepreneurship and globalization concern scholars and policymakers interested in economic transformation. However, researchers typically treat these phenomena in isolation. Most studies of entrepreneurship focus either on the attributes of individual entrepreneurs or on their connections to the local or regional environment. (1) Studies of globalization focus on multinational corporations and nation-states. (2) As a result, entrepreneurship and globalization are rarely linked.

Recent research suggests, however, that globalization and entrepreneurship are related: Foreign-born entrepreneurs are becoming agents of globalization by investing in their native countries, and their growing mobility is in turn fueling the emergence of entrepreneurial networks in distant locations. In Silicon Valley, for example, Taiwan-born entrepreneurs have built social and professional networks to support U.S. ventures, which they use to accelerate new firm in Taiwan. (3) There is evidence of a similar process among Indian immigrant entrepreneurs, (4) and scholars have begun to document emergence of strikingly similar transnational activities among Latin-American immigrants in the United States. (5)

We know little about the extent and contours of this phenomenon. In what ways are globalization and entrepreneurship linked? Do foreign-born counterparts? What role do ethnic networks play in the process of new firm formation? To what extent are first-generation immigrants creating transnational networks that link their native countries and the Unite States? What is the nature of these connections? Is the "brain-drain"-the migration of the best and brightest from poor to rich nations-accelerating, being reversed or being replaced by "brain circulation". That is, are there more complex two-way flows of skilled workers between developed and less-developed economies? (6)

Policymakers, face challenges resulting from the increasingly open flows of skill, technology, and capital across national boundaries. These processes have transformed debates about trade, immigration policy, and intellectual property rights, forcing creation of new institutions and mechanisms for adjudicating conflicts. This study will help to identify significant, and often unanticipated, areas of policy concern.

This study contributes to our understanding of entrepreneurship, globalization, and their interrelations by documenting findings of the first large-scale survey of foreign-born professionals in Silicon Valley. The survey explores the scope and organization of the local and transnational networks constructed by the region's immigrant engineers and scientists. It focuses on first-generation Indian and Chinese immigrants, the two largest groups of skilled immigrants in the region, and compares their participation in local and global networks to one another and to that of their U.S. born counterparts.


Surveying foreign-born professionals is unusually difficult. Most daunting is developing a sampling frame because the target population (foreign-born engineers and other professionals) is difficult to identify and, once identified, difficult to reach.

We have only rough estimates of the population of immigrant professionals in a region, making difficult to determine representativeness survey. Nevertheless, we have attempted to maximize the study's validity.

We estimate from Current Population Survey (CPS) data that there were about 320,000 professional workers in the high-technology sectors of the San Francisco Bay Area economy in 2000, including approximately 20,700 born in Greater China (Mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) and 18,400 born in India. [The estimates of the representation of foreign-born workers in the Silicon Valley workforce are based on data on place of birth and employment from the Current Population Survey 1994-2000 sample for the five-country Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose). …

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