No Evidence of a STEM Worker Shortage

Center for Immigration Studies, May 20, 2014

While employers argue that there are not enough workers with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees, a new analysis of government data by the Center for Immigration Studies finds no evidence that a general shortage of such workers exists. Consistent with most research on the subject, the findings show that the country has more than twice as many people with STEM degrees as there are STEM jobs. Also consistent with most other research on the subject, we find only modest levels of wage growth for such workers for more than a decade. Both employment and wage data indicate STEM workers are not in short supply in the United States.

View the entire report here.

“By allowing in many more immigrants than the STEM labor market can absorb, Congress is almost certainly holding down wage growth, crowding natives out of these jobs, and reducing the incentive for Americans to undertake the challenging course work necessary for a STEM career,” said Dr. Steven Camarota, the Center’s Director of Research and co-author of the report. “This may be a great situation for employers, but it is hard to see how this is in the best long-term interest of the American people.”

Among the report’s findings:

• Using the most common definition of STEM jobs, total STEM employment in 2012 was 5.3 million workers, but there are 12.1 million STEM degree holders.

• If STEM workers are in short supply, wages should be increasing rapidly. But wage data from multiple sources show little growth over the last 12 years.

• Real annual wages (adjusted for inflation) grew 0.4 percent a year on average from 2000 to 2012 for STEM workers. Wage growth has been very modest even for most subcategories of engineers and technology workers.

• Only one-third of native-born Americans with an undergraduate STEM degree who have a job actually work in a STEM occupation.

• There are more than five million native-born Americans with STEM undergraduate degrees working in non-STEM occupations: 1.5 million with engineering degrees, half a million with technology degrees, 400,000 with math degrees, and 2.6 million with science degrees.

• An additional 1.2 million natives with STEM degrees are not working–unemployed or out of the labor force in 2012.

• Well less than half of immigrants with STEM degrees work in STEM jobs. In particular, just 23 percent of all immigrants with engineering degrees work as engineers.

• In total, 1.6 million immigrants with STEM degrees worked outside of a STEM field and 563,000 were not working in 2012.

• Despite the economic downturn, between 2007 and 2012, about 700,000 new immigrants with STEM degrees were allowed to settle in the country.

• Of these new immigrants with STEM degrees, only a little more than a third took a STEM job and about the same share took a non-STEM job. The rest were not working in 2012.

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