Debunking the Myth

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) recently released a report in which it claims that native-born workers with science and engineering (S&E) degrees are being driven en masse into non-S&E occupations due to competition from foreign-born workers willing to accept lower wages. The conclusion FAIR came to, however, is lacking important details and is therefore wrong since a growing number of jobs in non-S&E occupations require or reward S&E skills. In other words, native-born workers with S&E degrees are not being driven out of those occupations by immigrants, they are simply being induced to going on to non-S&E occupations where their S&E skills are in high demand and command higher salaries.

The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University presented a comprehensive analysis of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics(STEM) occupations and found that the truth could not be further away from what FAIR is claiming. Where FAIR sees an immigration-induced oversupply of S&E workers who earn low wages, the Georgetown report says just the opposite. According to the report: “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 just coming from industries that traditionally hire STEM workers, it is also coming from industries like Professional and Business Services, Healthcare Services, Utilities, Transportation, Mining, and Advanced Manufacturing. Because employers in these industries are willing to pay top dollar for workers with STEM degrees, many STEM graduates are diverted into non-traditional career paths-it is not brought on by immigrants at all. According to the Georgetown report, native-born STEM graduates are diverted for a variety of economic, social, and cultural reasons and this diversion “will continue and likely accelerate in the future.” As a consequence, there is likely to be “an increasing reliance on foreign-born STEM talent among American employers.” But this is merely a reflection of high labor demand, not low demand, as FAIR would have us believe. In conclusion, it would seem that FAIR is misreading the nature of the S&E, or STEM, workforce, and that they are spreading unfounded half-truths only because it serves their anti-immigrant rhetoric. As this extensive report shows, native-born S&E workers and graduates are moving into non-traditional industries because those skills are valued by so many different employers. This means that they face a wide range of opportunities, not a shortage of options as FAIR would have you believe.

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