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High-Skilled Immigration and the Rise of STEM Occupations in US Employment

High-Skilled Immigration and the Rise of STEM Occupations in US Employment

Chapter:
(p.465) 12 High-Skilled Immigration and the Rise of STEM Occupations in US Employment
Source:
Education, Skills, and Technical Change
Author(s):
Gordon H. HansonMatthew J. Slaughter
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226567945.003.0019

We document the importance of high-skilled immigration for US employment in STEM fields. We review patterns of US STEM employment among workers with at least a college degree. These patterns mirror the boom and bust cycle in the US technology industry. Among younger workers, the share of hours worked in STEM jobs peaked around the year 2000, during the dot-com bubble. STEM employment shares are just now approaching these previous highs. Next, we consider the importance of immigrant labor to STEM employment. Immigrants account for a disproportionate share of jobs in STEM occupations. Foreign-born presence is most pronounced in computer-related occupations. The majority of foreign-born STEM workers arrived in the US at age 21 or older. Although we do not know their visa history, their age at arrival is consistent with the H-1B visa being an important mode of entry for highly trained STEM workers into the US Finally, we examine wage differences between native and foreign-born labor. Whereas foreign-born workers earn substantially less than native-born workers in non-STEM occupations, the native-foreign born earnings difference in STEM jobs is much smaller. Further, foreign-born workers in STEM fields reach earnings parity with native workers more quickly than in non-STEM fields.

Keywords:   skilled immigration, innovation, immigration policy

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