High-Skilled Migrants: S&E Workers in the United States

Philip L. Martin
Published in
American Behavioral Scientist, Volume 56 (2012), 1058-1079

Universities and employers want easier access to foreign science and engineering (S&E) students and workers. Most U.S. residents with degrees in S&E fields are U.S.-born citizens, and there are far more U.S. citizens with S&E degrees, about 15 million, than are employed in S&E occupations, about 5 million. Foreign students and workers in S&E occupations are concentrated in computer-related jobs, and their presence raises trade-offs for U.S. students and workers. For example, making it easier for U.S. employers to hire foreign S&E workers allows employers to specify precisely the qualities desired to fill a particular job quickly while limiting options for U.S. workers who could fill that job with some retraining. This article reviews the trade-offs between the competing goods raised by foreign S&E students and workers and the efforts of U.S. government agencies to reconcile them.