Ron Hira is a professor of public policy at Howard University. Paula Stephan is a professor of economics at Georgia State University. Hal Salzman is a Rutgers University professor of planning & public policy at the J.J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Michael Teitelbaum is senior research associate at the Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program. Norm Matloff is a professor of computer science at the University of California-Davis.
These authors explain that facts don’t support claims of a shortage of STEM workers. Here’s why:
Many with STEM degrees aren’t working STEM jobs.
Wages are stagnant.
If a shortage did exist, wages would be rising as companies tried to attract scarce workers. Instead, legislation that expanded visas for IT personnel during the 1990s has kept average wages flat over the past 16 years.
Reforms are redundant.
Another major, yet often overlooked, provision in the pending legislation would grant automatic green cards to any foreign student who earns a graduate degree in a STEM field, based on assertions that foreign graduates of U.S. universities are routinely being forced to leave. Such claims are incompatible with the evidence that such graduates have many paths to stay and work, and indeed the “stay rates” for visiting international students are very high and have shown no sign of decline. The most recent study finds that 92% of Chinese Ph.D. students stay in the U.S. to work after graduation.
The authors also note:
The tech industry’s promotion of expanded temporary visas (such as the H-1B) and green cards is driven by its desire for cheap, young and immobile labor. It is well documented that loopholes enable firms to legally pay H-1Bs below their market value and to continue the widespread age discrimination acknowledged by many in the tech industry.
The authors conclude:
IT industry leaders have spent lavishly on lobbying to promote their STEM shortage claims among legislators….evidence contradicts their self-interested claims.
A STEM Jobs Act, H.R.6429, passed the House in 2012; Rep. Reed voted for it. H.R. 459, STEM Visa Act of 2013, languishes in a House committee. S.303 is a related bill in the Senate.
Rep. Reed has stated support for improving the H2A program for migrant farm workers. However, Reed responded to a Daily Messenger email circa July 10, 2014 regarding his stand on immigration reform as follows:
“We should work together to find a legal process in which individuals follow the rules and come to this country legally,” Reed stated. “What we’re seeing with the influx of illegal immigrants is a failure to secure our border and a need to reform our immigration system. Securing the border has to be the first priority if we are going to talk about true immigration reform. The President’s ‘my way or the highway’ attitude and unwillingness to engage with Congress on the issue is not productive. While I do not support amnesty because amnesty is not fair to those who came to this country by following the rules, I am open to looking at what middle ground we can agree on. A fair compromise would be legal status without citizenship — that is a reasonable approach for both sides.”
Thus for better or for worse, any immigration reform, will likely be held hostage to political posturing at least until next year.
© William Hungerford – July 2014