Study Finds No Shortage of High-Tech Workers in U.S.

Study Finds No Shortage of High-Tech Workers in U.S.

Despite the clamor that there is a perpetual shortage of American high-tech workers, the number of foreign workers with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) degrees that the United States imports annually alone exceeds the number of available STEM jobs, making it tougher for Americans to move up the economic ladder by getting good-paying jobs in those professions.

A Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) report released on Tuesday ahead of a panel on the subject at the National Press Club found that from 2007-2012, STEM employment averaged “averaged only 105,000 jobs annually” while the U.S. admitted about 129,000 immigrants with STEM degrees. That means “the number of new immigrants with STEM degrees admitted each year is by itself higher than the total growth in STEM employment.” During that time period, the number of U.S.-born STEM graduates grew by an average of 115,00 a year. 

Authors Steven Camarota, CIS’s director of research, and Karen Ziegler, a CIS demographer, wrote that these numbers are “truly extraordinary” and “it should not be surprising that most STEM graduates (immigrant or native) do not have STEM jobs.”

The report, titled, Is There a STEM Worker Shortage? A look at employment and wages in science, technology, engineering, and math, is consistent with research from Georgetown University, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the Rand Corporation, the Urban Institute, and the National Research Council that have also found no evidence that America has a shortage of high-tech workers. And its findings concluded that America “has more than twice as many workers with STEM degrees as there are STEM jobs.” When combined with slight wage growth in the STEM fields for more than a decade, the authors concluded that “both employment and wage data indicate there is no shortage of STEM workers in the United States.”

“When formulating policy, elected representatives need to consider the actual conditions in the U.S. labor market, rather than simply responding to pressure from employers in industries that wish to hire large numbers of foreign STEM graduates,” the authors suggest. “While employers may find this situation desirable, it is difficult to argue this is the interest of American people as a whole.”

Yet, as Breitbart News has reported, the “Senate’s amnesty bill that passed last year would double and possibly triple the number of high-tech visas” and “House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) ‘SKILLS‘ Act that passed out of his committee would double the number of H-1B visas” to import even more foreign workers.

Using data from the American Community Survey (ACS) that the Census Bureau and the Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) collect, Camarota and Zeigler found that there were 5.3 million immigrant and native-born STEM workers in 2012 compared to 12.1 million STEM degree holders among immigrants and native-born Americans. In addition, only “a third of native-born Americans with a STEM degree actually has a job in a STEM occupation” while “at least 5 million native-born Americans with STEM undergraduate degrees are working in non-STEM occupations.” 

The authors note that “wage trends are one of the best measures of labor demand” and, “If STEM workers are in short supply, wages should be increasing rapidly. Predictably, though, due to the surplus of STEM workers, “wage data from multiple sources show little growth over the last 12 years,” as “real hourly wages adjusted for inflation grew on average just .7 percent a year from 2000 to 2012 for STEM workers.”

In addition, since a “majority of workers in all 48 STEM occupations in 2012 were native-born,” there is enough data to show that STEM jobs are not undesirable jobs that Americans will not do. In fact, the report found that “STEM graduates earn about 10 percent ($8,754) more in STEM occupations compared to those employed in non-STEM occupations.”

The report also found that 1.6 million people without STEM undergraduate degrees are working in a STEM field, and “the vast majority (85 percent) of those working in STEM occupations without STEM degrees are native-born.” They note that though the ACS does not note what graduate degrees people have, “the overwhelming majority of non-STEM degree holders who work in STEM jobs do not have graduate degrees.”

“This indicates that allowing in large numbers of immigrants who seek STEM employment may create competition for natives who themselves do not have STEM degrees, but who can do such work nonetheless,” the authors write.

On a conference call of scholars that Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) office organized last Friday, Ron Hira, an H-1B expert and public policy professor at Rutgers, said that the IT sector, for instance, has traditionally been “an area of social mobility.” And Americans without STEM degrees often have become proficient in IT jobs.

“You’ve got people who come from working-class backgrounds who go into these sectors,” Hira said, as Breitbart News reported. “It’s a way of getting into the middle class and the professional class, and that’s being cut off.” 

The authors also noted that when there is a shortage in a STEM field — like petroleum engineering — wages predictably have gone up. For instance, real annual wages for petroleum engineers “with only an undergraduate degree were $46,000 higher in 2012 than 2000 — 14 times the $3,300 increase for all engineers with only undergraduate degrees” and “nearly $51,00” higher between 2000 and 2012 for those with graduate degrees.

“This is a clear indication that increases in demand can drive up earnings in a STEM occupation,” the authors note.

Wages in the STEM fields, though, have remained stagnant, and the authors quote former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who testified that America’s “skilled wages are higher thananywhere in the world” and, “if we open up a significant window for skilled guest workers, that would suppress the skilled-wagelevel and end the concentration of income.”

Egged on by the millions the Chamber of Commerce and high-tech lobbies like Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s have spent, Congress has ensured that STEM wages have been suppressed, according to Camarota and Ziegler. But the high-tech industry still perpetuates the myth of a high-tech workers shortage and wants even more H-1B visas. 

Michael Teitelbaum, a senior research associate at Harvard Law School whose new book, Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent, recently observed  that “such claims are now well established as conventional wisdom” and “there is almost no debate in the mainstream.”

“They echo from corporate CEO to corporate CEO, from lobbyist to lobbyist, from editorial writer to editorial writer,” he wrote. “But what if what everyone knows is wrong? What if this conventional wisdom is just the same claims ricocheting in an echo chamber?”

The evidence shows that the conventional wisdom is terribly wrong. 

“No one has been able to find any evidence indicating current widespread labor market shortages or hiring difficulties in science and engineering occupations that require bachelor’s degrees or higher,” Teitelbaum concluded.

The Rand study cited by authors also found “no evidence that such shortages have existed at least since 1990, nor that they are on the horizon.”

Steve Goodman of Bright Media, whom the authors also cite, is one of the few people in the tech-industry who conceded that the numbers disprove Silicon Valley’s conventional wisdom about the shortage of high-tech workers.

“We’re Silicon Valley people, we just assumed the shortage was true,” he said, “It turns out there is a little Silicon Valley groupthink going on about this, though it’s not comfortable to say that.”

Camarota and Ziegler, the study’s authors, present the uncomfortable numbers and emphasize that “the dramatic increases in STEM immigration called for by employers and many in Congress would seem to be out of step with the absorption capacity of the STEM labor market.” They observe that “Congress is almost certainly holding down wage growth and reducing the incentive for native-born Americans to undertake the challenging course work that is often necessary for STEM careers.”

“The data indicate that the supply of STEM workers vastly exceeds the number of STEM jobs, and there has been only modest wage growth in these professions,” they conclude. “This reality should inform and shape public policy moving forward.”

6.7 million natives and immigrants already here with STEM degrees working in non-STEM jobs. There are an additional 1.8 million STEM degree holders in the country not working at all. 


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