Specht notes that differentiated products are such things as apparel and machinery, which require more information to be traded. “Most of the literature argues that immigrants can lower these informational hurdles due to their contacts with and knowledge about their origin country markets,” she said. “One could then expect that international students possess similar qualities.”

The research adds to our knowledge about the benefits of international students. “International students contributed $33.8 billion and supported 335,423 jobs to the U.S. economy during the 2021-2022 academic year,” according to an analysis produced for NAFSA by JB International.

Specht sees policy implications in her research. She notes that encouraging more international students to study in the United States is a good development strategy that would benefit both the U.S. and the students’ countries of origin. Specht believes it would be in an OECD country’s interest, such as the United States, to provide more funding to international students to allow more of them to study in their country.

Opportunities to work after graduation are also beneficial. “[P]roviding international students with internships and other hands-on opportunities may help origin countries upgrade their export product basket or better connect them to global supply chains via imported intermediates,” writes Specht. “Policies in this direction might include allowing students to be employed as part of their student visas or giving students the opportunity to extend their visas after graduation.”

International students can work in Optional Practical Training (OPT) for 12 months after graduation in the United States. OPT can be extended to 36 months for students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The research on international students and expanding trade indicates welcoming students from other countries to U.S. campuses provides additional benefits to Americans.