Seminar Series

High-skill Migrants and Innovation:
Populist Responses and Implications for Policy

  • Ram Mudambi
    Frank M. Speakman Professor of Strategy at the Fox School of Business, Temple University

Date: November 28, 2023
Time: 1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.


There is empirical evidence suggesting that populist responses tend to be more negative for migrant groups that (a) compete with native-born workers in the labor market and (b) for those that disproportionately burden public services, often causing a need for increased tax revenues. Both effects tend to be stronger for migrants with low levels of human capital in terms of knowledge and skills. Conversely, migrants with high human capital have been shown to complement native-born workers in the labor market and to be net contributors rather than a drain on state coffers. We add to this ‘human capital’ view of migrants by pointing out that every migrant brings a second form of capital to the destination country, i.e., social capital. In turn, a migrant’s social capital appears in two mutually reinforcing forms, bonding and bridging. Bonding social capital enables the migrant to fit into a local institution with colleagues and co-workers, enhancing the productivity of an entire team or unit in addition to his or her individual contributions. Bridging social capital recognizes the fact that in the modern world of ‘brain circulation (Saxenian, 2005), migrants retain social ties (both kinship and professional) with their countries of origin. This implies that a migrant from a country with a strong knowledge infrastructure like India or Turkey can tap into deep knowledge pools in their country of origin using bridging social capital enabled by a common language and culture. This makes the person more valuable than their own human capital. In contrast, a migrant from a country with a weak knowledge infrastructure like Somalia or Congo has virtually no bridging social capital, i.e., bridging to their country of origin brings nothing of value to the host country. We argue that our two-dimensional human capital / social capital view of high-knowledge migrants has crucial implications for policy.

Speaker Bio

Ram Mudambi | Fox School of Business | Fox School of Business (

Ram Mudambi is the Frank M. Speakman Professor of Strategy at the Fox School of Business, Temple University. Previously he served on the faculties of Case Western Reserve University, the University of Reading (UK) and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. He is a Fellow of the Academy of International Business. He is a visiting Professor at Henley Business School, University of Reading, an Honorary Professor at the Center of International Business, University of Leeds (CIBUL) and a member of advisory council of the University of Bradford Centre in International Business (BCIB). He has served as a Visiting Professor at a number of universities including Bocconi (Italy), Uppsala (Sweden), Sydney (Australia) and Copenhagen Business School (Denmark). He holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a Ph.D. from Cornell University.

His current research projects focus on the geography of innovation and the governance of knowledge-intensive processes. He has served as an Associate Editor of the Global Strategy Journal (2010-2013) and is an Area Editor at the Journal of International Business Studies (2013-2016). He has published over 80 peer-reviewed articles, including work in the Journal of Political Economy, the Journal of Economic Geography, the Strategic Management Journal and the Journal of International Business Studies. He has been a special issue editor for the Journal of Economic Geography, the Journal of Management Studies and the International Business Review. He serves on the editorial boards numerous journals.

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