Nor are we turning away foreign students, or forcing them to leave once they’ve graduated. According to the Congressional Research Service, the number of full-time foreign graduate students in science, engineering and health fields has grown by more than 50 percent, from 91,150 in 1990 to 148,900 in 2009. And over the 2000s, the United States granted permanent residence to almost 300,000 high-tech workers, in addition to granting temporary work permits (for up to six years) to hundreds of thousands more.
...But almost 90 percent of the Chinese students who earn science and technology doctorates in America stay here; the number is only slightly lower for Indians. If they’re talented enough to get a job here, they’re already almost guaranteed a visa.
...If anything, we have too many high-tech workers: more than nine million people have degrees in a science, technology, engineering or math field, but only about three million have a job in one. That’s largely because pay levels don’t reward their skills...
..And while unemployment for high-tech workers may seem low — currently 3.7 percent — that’s more than twice as high as it was before the recession...His conclusion?
Bringing over more — there are already 500,000 workers on H-1B visas — would obviously darken job prospects for America’s struggling young scientists and engineers. But it would also hurt our efforts to produce more: if the message to American students is, “Don’t bother working hard for a high-tech degree, because we can import someone to do the job for less,” we could do significant long-term damage to the high-tech educational system we value so dearly.
There is no question that the immigration system needs major reform. But let’s not break anything else in the process.I would really like to know if Mr. Eisenbrey's facts are accurate. Specifically, I'd like to see the data about retention of Chinese and Indian STEM graduates from the US. Rather than talk to you about my opinions of the current bills before Congress (short version: I'm skeptical), I would like to talk about (potential) winners and losers.
Who are the winners? It would seem to me that international STEM migrants under these programs would be the biggest winners of all. Even under the lower wages of the H1B system, their wages would likely be higher here than at their home.
Corporations would certainly be winners, because they would have access to their desired supply of labor at a relatively low price.
Universities would likely be winners, in that the STEM green card program would increase the quality and quantity of their potential labor pool.
Society at large might be a winner, in that, broadly speaking, the country gets the economic benefit of profitable corporations and tax receipts from the workers.
Who are the losers? It's clear to me that the potential benefit to the existing scientific and technical labor force is low. George Borjas is a Harvard economics professor who is prominent for being an immigration skeptic; he has found a negative effect on the wages of the college-educated from high-skill immigration. Even if you ignore his numbers (and a lot of policy types do), the gains to college-educated workers from immigration are not particularly stunning at 1% or so.
Finally, here are two quotes from the STEM immigration bill discussion that I find bothersome:
- Senator Marco Rubio: "I do not fear that our country will be overrun with Ph.Ds.”
- Political commentator Marc Ambinder*, emphasis mine: "But at the same time, the benefits to the U.S. economy of an influx of skilled foreign workers is undeniable. If there's a glut, then maybe that's a forgivable side effect."
*I am a huge fan of Ambinder's national security reporting -- I highly recommend it.