Tracking Silicon Valley’s “imported” talent

A good friend recently sent me this map depicting the main countries and states of origin of Silicon Valley’s tech workers.



It’s interesting to note the small size of both western European countries and African countries next to the comparatively much larger Asian countries.  (You could be forgiven for responding “duh” to that statement).  Given my research, I can’t help by notice that Sri Lanka is lumped in with “other Asia” for now.  It’s no surprise that US states like New York, Texas and Illinois are shown to send significant amounts of workers, given their sizable populations.

I do find myself wondering about exactly what data went into this visualization; how are “brains” and “talent” defined for the purpose of surveys such as these? Are we looking at a map that covers all types of labor performed in the tech industry, from cleaning to driving to serving food to programming to marketing? Or does the data compiled here represent only those workers who are considered to be the “intellectual” driving force behind apps and other innovations?

Venturebeat says this map shows why so many entrepreneurs care about immigration reform.  I’m sure that’s true, since we all know the Silicon Valley couldn’t survive without foreign workers.  However, I’d caution against drawing any overly optimistic or feel-good type conclusions from that.  As Kate Losse pointed out in her memoir The Boy Kings, there was a racialized (and gendered) hierarchy at the core of the start-up scene around the time when Facebook was still the new kid on the block, and white men were at the top of it, with men from South and East Asian countries performing much of the mid-level labor.  Perhaps the factoid presented here that a third of start-ups were founded by Indian-Americans represents a change since the time that she wrote her book – but it would be interesting to know more about who founded the other two thirds, and what percentage of the Indian-American community as a whole the founders represent.

Finally, given what I am researching, it would be interesting to see a visualization of the other side of this equation: where Silicon Valley is sending jobs and where outsourced labor is performed.  (I’m sure such a thing must exist).