The value of immigrants to the economy has been a topic that I’ve touched on numerous times over the years. For instance, Wharton research points out that immigrant founders not only create jobs, but also bring considerable finance with them. The authors state that cross-border VC investment is now at record levels, with this in large part due to the increasingly international nature of entrepreneurship.

It’s perhaps no surprise, therefore, that research from MIT’s CSAIL lab has shown that while American continues to lead the way in the development of artificial intelligence, much of the actual breakthroughs are driven by foreign-born scientists.

The researchers assessed improvements made to the key sections of AI over the past 70 years, and found that around two-thirds of the gains in that time were delivered by researchers at North American universities. What is important, however, is that in the last 30 years, over 75% of these breakthroughs have come from foreign-born scientists.

Improving teams

While we may assume that the benefits of immigrants are largely found in the tech sector, research from Wharton suggests that it’s far more extensive than that. The researchers used the high-stakes world of elite football (soccer) to make their point. They highlight how many of the best players, such as Mohamed Salah and Lionel Messi, are immigrants in their respective teams.

Elite football is one of the most diverse arenas, with up to half of players of color. As such, the researchers believed it to be the perfect Petri dish to explore whether teams with more immigrants in do better than their more homogenous peers.

The researchers assessed the makeup and performance of football teams from across Europe between 1990 and 2020, and found that for each extra overseas player, the team’s margin of victory improved by 0.12. This may sound marginal, but when the typical goal difference between teams is less than 1, this represents around a 20% boost to one’s chances of success.


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