A fresh look at STEM workers and immigration

A more realistic assessment of STEM workers would show that about one fifth of them are immigrants; immigrants account for close to half of doctoral level STEM workers; that STEM workers are concentrated in family-creation age cohorts, that they earn much more than most workers.

I have posted on STEM workers and immigrants most recently here and here. In this posting I rely in part on a 2021 study which defines STEM workers broadly, to recognize the “skilled technical workforce.” It says that “this major shift in the broad understanding of the STEM workforce more than doubles the number of workers classified as part of the STEM workforce by including 16 million workers with at least a bachelor’s degree and 20 million without a bachelor’s degree.” The study elsewhere says that the broader definition includes 34 million workers of 23% of the total workforce. Foreign-born workers are 21% of the broader definition, up from 17% of the entire workforce which is foreign-born and 14% of the entire population.

Foreign-born penetration in the STEM workforce

The study, using the broader definition, reports that “…foreign-born workers accounted for 21% of workers in S&E occupations at the bachelor’s degree level, 38% at the master’s degree level, and 45% at the doctoral degree level. Foreign-born workers accounted for 25% of computer and mathematical scientists at the bachelor’s degree level and 60% of computer and mathematical scientists with doctorates. Similarly, approximately one-half of engineers and life scientists at the doctoral degree level, and about one-third of these workers at the master’s degree level were foreign born.”

Age of STEM workers

There are relatively fewer less than 25 years old because most STEM workers need to have a college degree. There are relatively fewer over than 44 because STEM work has surged during a time when people were entering the job market. Total STEM workforce — 43.8% are between 25 and 44; immigrant STEM workers 52.6%.

STEM Wages

The expanded definition of STEM workers includes about 34 million workers, or 23% of the total workforce. A traditional definition includes about 10 million. These 10 million earn on average about $90,000, compared to $40,000 for the workforce as whole.

The traditional definition is: Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations include computer and mathematical, architecture and engineering, and life and physical science occupations, as well as managerial and postsecondary teaching occupations related to these functional areas and sales occupations requiring scientific or technical knowledge at the postsecondary level.

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