Another debunking of the U.S. Engineering Shortage

July 23, 2014
Another nail in the myth of an engineering shortage

A recent study from the Center for Immigration Studies found that in each year from 2001-12, the U.S. added 105,000 jobs for people with an education or background in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) discipline. (Here’s the full study.) Over that same span, U.S. colleges turned out an average of 115,000 graduates with STEM degrees. Sounds like a pretty good match between demand and supply, right? Not quite: The study also found that over those same years, the U.S. admitted 129,000 immigrants with STEM degrees. This accounts for some of the competition getting into those STEM slots, not to mention sluggish wage growth in those jobs and more than a whiff of age discrimination.

This study shoots a Gatling gun’s worth of holes in the corporate complaints of not being able to find enough U.S. engineers and tech workers. Here are some its conclusions:

  • “The large increases in STEM workers pushed by employers and many in Congress seem entirely divorced from what is actually going on in the U.S. labor market.”
  • “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.”
  • “By allowing in many more immigrants than the labor market has been able to absorb, 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. While employers may find this situation desirable, it is difficult to argue this is the interest of American people as a whole.”

These finding should come as no surprise, and certainly not to engineers. The same findings were highlighted in papers from the Rand Corp., the Economic policy Institute, the National Research Council, the Urban Institute, and Georgetown University.

Regardless of the facts, Congress is pushing open the doors to more STEM-educated immigrants. The Senate recently passed an immigration amnesty bill that would double, possibly triple, the number of high-tech visas the U.S. issues annually. And a congressperson recently got a bill out of committee that could double the number of H-1B Visas, letting in even more foreign tech workers.

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