Analysis Finds No Real Shortage Of U.S. STEM Workers

The so-called shortage of U.S. workers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields may be creation of multi-national companies that want to keep wages low.

Companies are hiring IT  and STEM workers, just from overseas. .electrical engineer at work

Companies are hiring IT and STEM workers workers — from overseas at low pay.

Contrary to many industry claims, the study finds that U.S. colleges and universities provide an ample supply of highly qualified science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates.

In new research from the Economic Policy Institute, Hal Salzman of Rutgers, Daniel Kuehn of American University and B. Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown University, find little evidence to support expansion of high-skill guest worker programs as proposed in the immigration bill being debated in the Senate.

In Guestworkers in the high-skill U.S. labor market, the authors examine the Information Technology labor market, guest worker flows and the STEM pipeline, and conclude that the United States has more than a sufficient supply of STEM workers available.

Key findings on the STEM workforce include:

  • Guest workers may be filling as many as half of all new Information Technology jobs each year.
  • IT workers earn the same today as they did, generally, 14 years ago.
  • Currently, only one of every two STEM college graduates is hired into a STEM job each year.
  • Policies that expand the supply of guest workers will discourage U.S. students from going into STEM, and into IT in particular.

“The debate over guest worker programs is largely based on anecdotal evidence and testimonials from employers, rather than solid evidence,” said Hal Salzman of Rutgers.

“Our examination shows that the STEM shortage in the United States is largely overblown,” Salzman said. “Guest worker programs are in need of reform, but any changes should make sure that guest workers are not lower-paid substitutes for domestic workers.”

Despite a steady supply of U.S. STEM graduates, guest workers make up a large and growing portion of the U.S. workforce, specifically in information technology occupations and industries.

Information technology employers look to guest worker programs as a source of labor that is plentiful even at wages that appear to be too low to attract large numbers of the best and brightest domestic students.

Salzman is a professor in the E.J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy and Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Lowell is Director of Policy Studies at the Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University and Kuehn is a doctoral candidate in American University’s Department of Economics.

Additional reading: 

Immigration Bill Would Give Half Of New U.S. IT Jobs To Guest Workers

Offshore Outsourcing Firms Are Top 10 Users Of H-1B Guest Worker Program

Large India Outsourcing Firms Accused Of U.S. Visa Fraud

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