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The recent announcement by the Standard and Poor's 500 Index that Tesla Inc. would join the index of large U.S. stocks is the latest reminder of the importance of immigrants to America's success.
Tesla's founder and CEO, Elon Musk, is now the third-richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Musk was born in South Africa but eventually came to the United States via Canada.
People may complain about Musk's erratic tweets or the share of his company's revenues that come from reselling regulatory credits. Even discounting for all that, though, what he has done with Tesla is a remarkable achievement. People who can afford to drive Mercedes-Benz cars or other luxury gas-powered vehicles are voluntarily (okay, with nudges of government subsidies in some cases, but more or less voluntarily) trading them in for cars from a new entrant to the market. They are doing so in such numbers as to make Musk and other Tesla shareholders extremely wealthy. In the third quarter of 2020—amid a global pandemic—Tesla produced 145,036 vehicles. Tesla's market capitalization now exceeds that of much older companies such as JPMorganChase & Co., Coca-Cola Co., or McDonald's Corp.
Nor is Musk an exception when it comes to America's most valuable companies being led by immigrants. Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, is originally from Hyderabad, India. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, was co-founded by an immigrant from Russia, Sergey Brin. The current CEO of Alphabet is Sundar Pichai, who was born in Chennai, India, and came to the U.S. to study at Stanford and Wharton.
Some big companies that aren't immigrant success stories are children-of-immigrant success stories. Abdulfattah Jandali was a Syrian professor of political science who came to America and gave his son up for adoption; the son became Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is the son of an immigrant to the U.S. from Cuba.
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