STEM employment in the U.S. and foreign workers

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) jobs have been populated by foreign workers. Many temporary H-1B workers are employed in these jobs. Many STEM jobs have been off-shored. In 1994, there were 6.2 U.S.-born workers for every foreign-born worker in science and engineering occupations. By 2006, the ratio was 3.1 to 1.

Michael Teitelbaum, in Falling Behind: Boom, Bust and the Global Race for Scientific Talent (2014) summarizes several studies that address some aspects of degree granting and employment in STEM. There is no consensus that there is a labor shortage, he says, and says that it is easy to see how groups with strong self-interests can find credible evidence that there is a shortage of native-born workers or that there is an ample supply of these workers.

He asks, is there a shortage of STEM workers in the U.S.? A shortage of supply can be determined when these events occur: a strong growth in employment, an increase in wages relative to other jobs, and a declining or low unemployment rate.

Teitelbaum cites a Bureau of Labor Statistics study in 1999 of labor shortages between 1992 and 1997. Despite the strong economy during that period, the BLS found only seven if 68 occupations it studied as having a shortage. “These seven did not include information technology, nurses, or other categories for which employers had been claiming shortages.” The only STEM job with a shortage was mechanical engineering. The six others were management analysts; advertising and PR managers; purchasing agents and buyers; special ed teachers; dental hygienists; and airplane pilots and navigators.

He goes on to cite the STEM Workforce Data Project, which from 2004 to 2007 produced a number of studies. In its final report, the Project found an absence of federal policy to address “the rise of foreign sources of labor that were not available before [off-shoring and foreign workers coming to the U.S.]”

Teitelbaum next summarizes a RAND study in 2002 which failed to find “the kind of vigorous employment and earnings prospect that would be expected to draw increasing numbers of bright and informed young people into [science and engineering] fields.”

Another RAND study in 2008, for the Department of Defense, found that “in sum, unemployment and wage growth patterns are thus no unusual and do not point to the presence of a chronic shortage in S & E.”

He notes that degree production in STEM has not grown at the pace of the growth in STEM jobs, and that degree production in STEM in China, India and South Korea has grown much faster, from smaller bases.

Do poorly educated immigrant workers compete with or complement their native-born peers?

Low skilled jobs in America are increasing in numbers. Per the Urban Institute, Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that, by 2022, there will 4 million additional jobs in occupations that do not require a high school diploma. Who will fill these jobs – foreign born or native born workers?

Maria Enchautegui of the Urban Institute finds that:

In 2013, the foreign-born population accounted for 44% of the 16 million workers that have no high school diploma. [About 25% of foreign born workerd, or 7 million, have no HS degree, and about  7% or 9 million native born workers have no HS degree. About half of the American workforce in 1960 had not completed high school.]

The top three occupations with the largest number of immigrants without high school diploma are maids and house cleaners, cooks, and miscellaneous agricultural workers.

In contrast, the occupations with the largest number of native workers without high school degrees are cashiers, truck drivers, and janitors and building cleaners.

The top three occupations in which less-educated immigrants are most over-represented are miscellaneous personal appearance workers, such as manicurists (87% immigrant); workers who grade, sort, and classify unprocessed food and other agricultural products (82%); and sewing-machine operators (81%).

The top three occupations in which less-educated natives are most over-represented are counter attendants in cafeterias, food concession stands, and coffee shops (86% native workers); hosts and hostesses at restaurants, lounges, and coffee shops (85%); and receptionists and information clerks (81%).

PFR: The complementary profile of the two work forces can be seen in injury risk. Immigrant workers tend to be over-represented in jobs with low educational requirements that have double the injury risk of these kinds of jobs dominated by native-born workers.

Trump overestimates by ten times the crime rate of aliens

Donald Trump told an audience in Phoenix on August 31 that there are two million alien criminals in the United States: “According to federal data, there are at least 2 million, 2 million, think of it, criminal aliens now inside of our country, 2 million people criminal aliens. We will begin moving them out day one. As soon as I take office. Day one. In joint operation with local, state, and federal law enforcement.”

Trump asserts, in effect, that the criminal rate among aliens is ten times that among native-born residents. Figures strongly suggest that the criminal rates of the two populations are about equal, or 1%.

Let’s look at criminal figures in the context of the adult population between 15 and 64. (For a demographic profile of foreign and native born, go here.) There are about 43 million foreign born persons in the U.S. today, of whom 53% are aliens, that is, not naturalized. Leaving out persons under 15 and over 64 years old, that leaves us with about 18.2 million working age aliens. Trump’s two million is 11% of them. Trump is saying, in effect, that one out of every ten alien working age adults is a criminal.

What do incarceration figures tell us? There are about 300,000 aliens in prison today – the vast majority from Latin America. That is equivalent to 2% of the number of working age adult aliens. But a lot of them are in prison for immigration reasons. The U.S. deports about 200,000 aliens a year due to internal (non-border) arrest for criminal violations. That’s equivalent to a bit over 1% of working age aliens. (The great majority of non-border deportations arise from criminal acts.) It would appear highly unlikely that a major uptake in law enforcement is going to significantly (or at all) increase the alien population in prison and in deportation processing. (For figures on incarcerations of aliens and deportations, go here and here.)

The prison population of non-aliens in the U.S appears to about two million. There are about 230 million native born working age residents. This means there are slightly less than 1% of number of working age native Americans in prison.