American service sector and its impact on the world — the role of immigrants

While our manufacturing base of workers in the country is influential around the world, some key service sectors have an outsized, even dominating, role in the world. And this would not take place without the presence of foreign-born workers. For these four subsectors of the service economy, each of which has a major impact on how the world perceives the United States, employment of foreign-born workers averages around 30-60%, while the share of foreign-born workers throughout the economy is 18% (which will rise due to working age demographic trends).

Their impact on the world includes not only the delivery of services globally from the U.S., but also the development of key service industries in countries, including emerging countries, of foreign-born workers who worked at some time in the U.S. A good example of this is how the Indian IT sector grew.

Computer sciences: The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey found that 63% of computer scientists and software engineers in the U.S. were foreign-born. In the fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and data science, over 60% of workers were foreign-born.

Healthcare research:  About 30% of medical researchers are foreign-born. These workers are employed in the pharmaceutical industry and in research centers.

Entertainment (Arts, entertainment, and recreation): According to a report by the Motion Picture Association of America in 2017, around 33% of the workforce in the broader U.S. motion picture and television industry were foreign-born.

Education: In the 2020-2021 academic year, around 50% of full-time graduate students in engineering programs in the U.S. were temporary student visa holders.   American Mathematical Society (AMS) found in 2015 that around 54% of doctoral faculty in mathematics departments at U.S. public universities were born outside the United States.

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