Mark Cuban thinks that the world's first trillionaire could be an artificial intelligence entrepreneur. Other research concludes that, in the next 25 years, it may be Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Regardless, the odds suggest that the lucky individual, like so many of the world's wealthiest people, will have a background in science, tech, engineering or math. And, if he or she is American, that means he or she will likely be a child of immigrants.
More than one-fourth of the world's high-net-worth population studied STEM, a 2016 analysis of the Forbes' top 100 richest people in the world finds. Engineering graduates were the most affluent, earning a combined wealth of $25.8 billion.
And a recent survey of high school students excelling in these lucrative STEM fields indicates that the super rich of the future could well be sons and daughters of immigrants to America. The National Foundation for American Policy finds that, of the finalists in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Research, a whopping 83 percent, or 33 out of 40, are children of immigrants.
14 finalists have parents born in India and 11 have parents born in China.
While former H-1B visa holders represent less than one percent of the U.S. population, their children made up 75 percent of finalists in one of the most competitive science competitions for science students.
Winning projects by the high school students included creation of software that could be used by pharmaceutical companies to fight cancer and heart disease, as well as research on cost-effective alternatives to parts of touchscreen devices.
First and second-generation immigrants dominate Silicon Valley and the world of STEM. Last year, The National Foundation for American Policy found that immigrants have started more than half of America's startup companies valued at $1 billion or more and are integral members in more than 70 percent of the companies.
According to the NFAP, immigrant founders have created an average of 760 jobs per company in the United States.
Many of America's foremost tech leaders, like Apple founder Steve Jobs, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, are either the children of immigrants or immigrants themselves.
One finalist of the Intel competition, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, worked on ways to improve the properties of cement and how it could help to prevent oil spills. She tells the Foundation that her father grew up during the civil war in Nigeria and couldn't afford an education. He was able to move to the U.S. with an H-1B visa and got trained to become a physical therapist.
"Seeing what my parents did to make a better life for their children has inspired me to do everything I can to succeed," she says. "This is the land of opportunity."