More evidence: Guest workers lower STEM salaries

April 25, 2013

A thinktank called the Economic Policy Institute has examined employment trends among U.S. IT workers and has concluded  the U.S. has more than a sufficient supply of qualified people available to work in STEM occupations.

EPI summarized its conclusions in a recent briefing paper. They confirm what several other entities have concluded when they looked at employment trends in science and technology careers, particularly in the area of allowing guest workers into the U.S. to fill science and technology jobs. Specifically, guest workers hold down salaries in STEM fields and thus make them less attractive career choices for U.S. citizens. 

Here are a few other interesting conclusions from EPI's study:

For every two students that U.S. colleges graduate with STEM degrees, only one is hired into a STEM job. (Nothing new here. We highlighted a similar finding three years ago.) EPI also says U.S. colleges graduate 50% more IT students than are hired into those fields each year; of the computer science graduates not entering the IT workforce, 32% say it is because IT jobs are unavailable, and 53% say they found better job opportunities outside of IT occupations.

Over the past decade, IT wages have remained flat, with real wages hovering around their late 1990s levels. EPI also found that since the late 1990s, the number of guestworkers has increased sharply with only a modest rise in IT employment among U.S. citizens, suggesting a fundamental change in this labor market. The flow of guestworkers has risen over the past decade and continues to rise. EPI says the annual inflows of guestworkers amount to one-third to one-half the number of all new IT job holders.

EPI says that only about a third of the IT workforce has an IT-related college degree, and 36% of IT workers hold no college degree at all. Only 24% of IT workers have a four-year computer science or math degree.

EPI conclusions about guestworkers are particularly interesting. The domestic supply of IT workers exhibits slow growth. The supply of IT guestworkers appears to be growing dramatically, despite stagnant or even declining wages. EPI concludes that immigration policies that facilitate large flows of guestworkers will supply labor at wages that are too low to induce significant increases in supply from the domestic workforce.

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