Brain Gain: Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy

Brookings Institution Press
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Many of America's greatest artists, scientists, investors, educators, and entrepreneurs have come from abroad. Rather than suffering from the "brain drain" of talented and educated individuals emigrating, the United States has benefited greatly over the years from the "brain gain" of immigration. These gifted immigrants have engineered advances in energy, information technology, international commerce, sports, arts, and culture. To stay competitive, the United States must institute more of an open-door policy to attract unique talents from other nations. Yet Americans resist such a policy despite their own immigrant histories and the substantial social, economic, intellectual, and cultural benefits of welcoming newcomers. Why?

In Brain Gain, Darrell West asserts that perception or "vision" is one reason reform in immigration policy is so politically difficult. Public discourse tends to emphasize the perceived negatives. Fear too often trumps optimism and reason. And democracy is messy, with policy principles that are often difficult to reconcile.

The seeming irrationality of U.S. immigration policy arises from a variety of thorny and interrelated factors: particularistic politics and fragmented institutions, public concern regarding education and employment, anger over taxes and social services, and ambivalence about national identity, culture, and language. Add to that stew a myopic (or worse) press, persistent fears of terrorism, and the difficulties of implementing border enforcement and legal justice.

West prescribes a series of reforms that will put America on a better course and enhance its long-term social and economic prosperity. Reconceptualizing immigration as a way to enhance innovation and competitiveness, the author notes, will help us find the next Sergey Brin, the next Andrew Grove, or even the next Albert Einstein.

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About the author

Darrell M. West is vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. Among his sixteen previous books are Digital Medicine: Health Care in the Internet Era (Brookings, 2009), Biotechnology Policy across National Boundaries (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), and Digital Government: Technology and Public Sector Performance (Princeton, 2005).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Jun 1, 2010
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Pages
182
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ISBN
9780815704836
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Labor & Industrial Relations
Social Science / Emigration & Immigration
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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In a remarkable pairing, two renowned social critics offer a groundbreaking anthology that examines the unexplored consequences of globalization on the lives of women worldwide

Women are moving around the globe as never before. But for every female executive racking up frequent flier miles, there are multitudes of women whose journeys go unnoticed. Each year, millions leave Mexico, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and other third world countries to work in the homes, nurseries, and brothels of the first world. This broad-scale transfer of labor associated with women's traditional roles results in an odd displacement. In the new global calculus, the female energy that flows to wealthy countries is subtracted from poor ones, often to the detriment of the families left behind. The migrant nanny--or cleaning woman, nursing care attendant, maid--eases a "care deficit" in rich countries, while her absence creates a "care deficit" back home.

Confronting a range of topics, from the fate of Vietnamese mail-order brides to the importation of Mexican nannies in Los Angeles and the selling of Thai girls to Japanese brothels, Global Woman offers an unprecedented look at a world shaped by mass migration and economic exchange on an ever-increasing scale. In fifteen vivid essays-- of which only four have been previously published-- by a diverse and distinguished group of writers, collected and introduced by bestselling authors Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild, this important anthology reveals a new era in which the main resource extracted from the third world is no longer gold or silver, but love.

Big, unexpected changes are here to stay.

Slow, incremental change has become a relic of the past. Today's shifts come fast and big, what Darrell West calls megachanges, in which dramatic disruptions in trends and policies occur on a regular basis.

Domestically, we see megachange at work in the new attitudes and policies toward same-sex marriage, health care, smoking, and the widespread legalization of marijuana use. Globally, we have seen the extraordinary rise and then collapse of the Arab Spring, the emergence of religious zealotry, the growing influence of nonstate actors, the spread of ISIS-fomented terrorism, the rise of new economic and political powers in Asia, and the fracturing of once-stable international alliances.

Long-held assumptions have been shattered, and the proliferation of unexpected events is confounding experts in the United States and around the globe. Many of the social and political institutions that used to anchor domestic and international politics have grown weak or are in need of dramatic reform.

What to do? West says that we should alter our expectations about the speed and magnitude of political and social change. We also need to recognize that many of our current governing processes are geared to slow deliberation and promote incremental change, not large-scale transformation. With megachange becoming the new normal, our domestic and global institutions must develop the ability to tackle the massive economic, political, and social shifts that we face.
Looking for ways to handle the transition to a digital economy

Robots, artificial intelligence, and driverless cars are no longer things of the distant future. They are with us today and will become increasingly common in coming years, along with virtual reality and digital personal assistants.

As these tools advance deeper into everyday use, they raise the question—how will they transform society, the economy, and politics? If companies need fewer workers due to automation and robotics, what happens to those who once held those jobs and don't have the skills for new jobs? And since many social benefits are delivered through jobs, how are people outside the workforce for a lengthy period of time going to earn a living and get health care and social benefits?

Looking past today's headlines, political scientist and cultural observer Darrell M. West argues that society needs to rethink the concept of jobs, reconfigure the social contract, move toward a system of lifetime learning, and develop a new kind of politics that can deal with economic dislocations. With the U.S. governance system in shambles because of political polarization and hyper-partisanship, dealing creatively with the transition to a fully digital economy will vex political leaders and complicate the adoption of remedies that could ease the transition pain. It is imperative that we make major adjustments in how we think about work and the social contract in order to prevent society from spiraling out of control.

This book presents a number of proposals to help people deal with the transition from an industrial to a digital economy. We must broaden the concept of employment to include volunteering and parenting and pay greater attention to the opportunities for leisure time. New forms of identity will be possible when the "job" no longer defines people's sense of personal meaning, and they engage in a broader range of activities. Workers will need help throughout their lifetimes to acquire new skills and develop new job capabilities. Political reforms will be necessary to reduce polarization and restore civility so there can be open and healthy debate about where responsibility lies for economic well-being.

This book is an important contribution to a discussion about tomorrow—one that needs to take place today.

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