STEM Wages’ Shocking Stagnation Destroys Case For Increased Immigration

Article author: 
Edwin S. Rubenstein
Article publisher: 
Article date: 
25 March 2015
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

Last week’s damaging Senate Judiciary Committee testimony (see here and here) suggests that legislation expanding H-1B program is going nowhere (which may be why the Regime is threatening one of its imperial decrees for guest workers: Indian IT Industry Gets a Boost As Obama Decides To Ease L-1B Visa Norms, by Mohul Gosh,, March 24, 2015. But all the evidence you really need is in our chart above. (Mouseover for the underlying data).

When a commodity is in short supply its price rises, thereby increasing supply, reducing demand, and eventually eliminating the shortage. If STEM workers were in short supply, their earnings would be increasing rapidly. Instead, the data show long-term stagnation

Average real earnings for all STEM workers rose by a mere 0.4% per annum over the 2000 to 2012 period, according to a Center for Immigration Studies report published in 2014. No STEM category escaped stagnation: average annual income growth ranged from a low of 0.2% per annum for Science workers to a high of 0.6% per annum for Engineers.

To be sure, total STEM employment increased over this period—from 4.3 million in 2000 to 5.3 million in 2012. But although immigrants accounted for 27% of all STEM workers in 2012, they accounted for 45% of the STEM employment gain over this period.

With immigrants filling an increasing share of STEM employment, many readers might conclude that foreign-born workers are needed to meet the increased demand for STEM workers. That would be the wrong. If anything, there is a glut of STEM workers—a glut exacerbated by the very influx of immigrants STEM employers clamor for.

Consider these numbers:

  • There were 12.1 million STEM degree holders (immigrant and native) in 2012—more than twice the 5.3 million STEM workers that year. [The number of potential STEM workers vastly exceeds the number of STEM jobs.]
  • From 2007 to 2012 the U.S. admitted an average of 129,000 immigrants with STEM degrees each year; total STEM employment over that period grew by an average of only 105,000 per year. [This is scandalous, especially considering that an average of 115,000 US-born students per year received stem undergraduate degrees during this period.]
  • 1.2 million U.S.-born STEM degree holders were unemployed or out of the labor force in 2012; another 5 million worked in non-STEM occupations. [These potential STEM workers were either involuntarily displaced, or left for greener (non-STEM) pastures due to the mass influx low-wage immigrants with stem degrees]
  • Nearly one-third of the America’s STEM workers do not have an undergraduate STEM degree. [Further reason to question employers’ push for higher STEM immigration levels.]

The overwhelming statistical evidence against the STEM shortage shouters has convinced even normally pro-immigration groups. Recent reports by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the RAND Corporation, the Urban Institute, and the National Research Council find no evidence that STEM workers are in short supply.

The RAND study, published in 2004, looked backward in time and found, “Despite recurring concerns about potential shortages of STEM personnel . . . we did not find evidence that such shortages have existed at least since 1990, nor that they are on the horizon.”

Harvard demographer Michael Teitelbaum [Email him]summarized the literature on STEM in an article entitled The Science and Engineering Shortage Is a Myth in the March 2014 Atlantic: No one has been able to find any evidence indicating current widespread labor market shortages or hiring difficulties in science and engineering occupations that require bachelor’s degrees or higher,” he points out....