Facts About High Skilled Immigrants and the Economy: Part 2 of 4


Last week we posted the first of this 4 part series on immigrants and the economy. In that post, we saw that high skilled immigrants create jobs and generate trillions for the U.S. economy. What follows is a continuation of the American Immigration Counsel‘s report, Fueling the Recovery, regarding highly skilled immigrants and the U.S. economy. As we stated last week, this report is attributed solely to the AIC’s Immigration Policy Center. While we can take absolutely no credit for what follows, we, as advocates of comprehensive immigration reform, find the AIC’s report of such high value in dispelling the myths about immigrant workers that we post it here:

High-skilled immigrants supplement rather than displace native-born workers.

The 2012 report from the Information Technology Industry Council, the Partnership for a New American Economy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce finds that many STEM occupations “have markedly low unemployment, and that foreign-born STEM workers currently in the workforce are complementing, not displacing their U.S. counterparts.”

  • There is full employment among U.S.-citizen STEM workers with advanced degrees. The federal government defines “full employment” as an unemployment rate of no more than 4 percent (to account for people who are “unemployed” because they are in the middle of changing jobs, moving, etc.). But for U.S.-citizen STEM workers with PhDs the unemployment rate is only 3.15 percent, and for those with master’s degrees it is 3.4 percent.
  • In some STEM occupations, the unemployment rate is even lower. Unemployment among Petroleum Engineers, for instance, is 0.1 percent, for Computer Network Architects it is 0.4 percent, and for Nuclear Engineers it is 0.5 percent.
  • Those STEM fields in which large shares of workers are foreign-born have low unemployment rates among native-born workers. For example, just under one-quarter of Medical Scientists are foreign-born, but native-born Medical Scientists have an unemployment rate of just 3.4 percent.

According to a 2011 report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce: “High and rising wage premiums are being paid to STEM workers in spite of the increasing global supply. This suggests that the demand for these workers is not being met.”

  • This demand is not only coming from industries that traditionally hire STEM workers, but also industries like Professional and Business Services, Healthcare Services, Advanced Manufacturing, Mining, and Utilities and Transportation. Employers in these industries are willing to pay top dollar for workers with STEM backgrounds, which has the effect of “diverting” many STEM graduates into non-traditional career paths.
  • Native-born workers with S&E degrees aren’t being driven out of S&E occupations by immigrants; they are being lured into non-S&E occupations where their S&E skills are in high demand and command higher salaries. In other words, they face a wide range of opportunities, not a shortage of options.
  • Native-born STEM graduates are the most likely to be “diverted” into non-traditional career paths for a variety of economic, social, and cultural reasons. And this “diversion” of native-born STEM graduates “will continue and likely accelerate in the future.” As a result, there is likely to be “an increasing reliance on foreign-born STEM talent among American employers.”
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