The truth about the great American science shortfall

Article author: 
Karin Klein
Article publisher: 
Los Angeles Times
Article date: 
7 March 2014
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

...Over the weekend, a Harvard researcher finally cast a more critical eye on all the hoopla. The conclusion: While the great STEM shortage isn't wholly myth, it certainly has been mightily overhyped.

Michael Teitelbaum, a senior research associate in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, laid out the evidence for journalists Saturday at the USC-hosted conference of the Education Writers Assn:

If there were a big, general shortage of these workers, you would expect to see their wages rising. That hasn’t happened.

There would be relatively low and declining unemployment rates compared with people of similar educational levels. Hasn’t happened.

There should be faster-than-average employment growth, which is occurring in some occupations but not others.

In fact, Teitelbum portrayed the life of a biomedical researcher as practically grim...

The chatter about STEM is based on some realities, Teitelbaum said. Engineers might not, as a group, be terribly sought-after, but some specialized kinds of engineers are in hot demand — at least right now...

So from where does the STEM hype stem? According to Teitelbaum — who has written a book on the subject, due out in March, titled “Falling Behind?: Boom, Bust and the Global Race for Scientific Talent” — some of it comes from the country’s longtime cycle of waxing and waning interest in science; attention seems to focus on science every 10 to 15 years before slacking off.

The only forces pushing the idea of STEM doom, he said, are those that have something to gain from it. Mostly those are STEM employers — the tech industry, for example — that want to pack the labor force with people to suppress wages, he said, as well as lobby for looser immigration laws so that they can bring in less expensive overseas workers...