America's foreign-born scientists and engineers
November 23rd, 2011
06:24 PM ET

America's foreign-born scientists and engineers

The GOP presidential candidates sparred Tuesday night on national security, but there was at least one point of agreement among them, or at least between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

“I think that we ought to have an H-1 visa that goes with every graduate degree in math, science and engineering so that people stay here,” said Gingrich.

“I'd staple a green card to the diploma of anybody who's got a degree of math, science, a Masters degree, Ph.D,” said Romney.

The candidates explained that keeping foreign-born students who study science, technology, engineering or math in the U.S. was an important step in creating new technologies, new industries and new jobs.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released a report on foreign-born bachelor’s degree holders living in the U.S. The numbers give some sense of how U.S. universities remain magnets for those seeking to study science, math or engineering. There are now 4.2 million foreign-born science and engineering bachelor's degree holders in the U.S., a number double the population of Houston, Texas, for comparison.

Foreign-born residents account for:

33 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in engineering
27 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in computers, mathematics and statistics
24 percent in physical sciences
17 percent in biological, agricultural and environmental sciences

Among the foreign-born who had studied science or engineering:

57 percent were born in Asia
18 percent in Europe
16 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean
5 percent in Africa
3 percent in Northern America

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Topics: Daily Fact • Education • Immigration • Innovation • Uncategorized

soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. 100% ETHIO STRONGER!

    Imagine the cost of TIME and MONEY spent for Domestic born Professionals:
    Let US start from:
    1 pregnancy;
    2 Maternity leave;
    3 Baby Sitting;
    4 basic necessities expenses for the Child;
    5 Day care;
    6 School Expenses from Elementary up to College Graduation;
    7 other expenses;
    8 Since Divorce rate is so high in U.S.A, the painful dilemmas and Medical and Child care expenses;
    9 you must be lucky enough to get the job you want.
    ==== Dream ====

    Sponsoring International Skill Workers:
    The cost is;
    1 Few on job site training then boom. They started contribute Taxes, job creations,...

    November 23, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Reply
    • USA

      You can not call that healthy nation-building, can you?

      November 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  2. 100% ETHIO STRONGER!

    Let US start from Alexander the Great or slightly before Him.
    ...He wasn't born in America.

    November 23, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Reply
    • Get lost, fakystan.

      You are absolutely correct. I never think about all these. Definitely, I will present this to the WH.

      Actually, George W Bush and Laura Bush will visit Ethiopia, from December 1 to December 5,2011. They said, " Ethiopians Loves America and America Loves Ethiopia".

      November 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Reply
  3. Miss Demeanor

    Well, an inrush of foreign workers has only worsened the shortage the IT worker shortage. Why? It has kept wages lower than they would be if MS and GooGoo and the other tech giants hadn't got such a fawning response from congress to let in a flood of foreign workers. What the tech giants REALLY wanted was lower wages. Now, students who would have considered the field are choosing other majors. Why? It is a difficult major (like a math major but with tons of lab work on top of that), and working conditions are not something they want to tolerate without a good reason. Sure enough, the number of students choosing a computer science major is declining. It's a consequence of greed and short-term thinking. The tech goliaths know how market forces work and got rich because of them. They want to manipulate the forces of supply and demand, at OUR peril, to make more money this year. We'll pay in the future.

    November 23, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Reply
    • Scientist

      "IT job" is not same as Computer Science – which requires wayy more math and analytical skills.

      December 1, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Reply
    • Claudius II

      Absolutely correct. The hard sciences are also in the same position. I spent 3 years working under someone who won the Noble Award before getting my Master's in Chemical Engineering. Half of my class could find no job and went into other professions. I got one job offer at 33K to start. The company wouldn't negotiate: "take it or leave it they said, we can hire thousands of engineers anytime we please".

      February 22, 2013 at 11:41 am | Reply
  4. Robert

    I note that the article mentions Bachelor's degree. My understanding is that most foreign students do their Bachelor's in their home country become coming over here for the Masters and Ph.D. Even a cursory inspection of this country's campuses would indicate foreigners make up a significantly higher percentage of the student body than ~25% indicated by the first graph. In many engineering graduate programs, it can indeed be hard to find American-born students. Maybe Fareed can dig out the figures for graduate students?

    November 24, 2011 at 12:08 am | Reply
    • Takanori

      dadakikov on January 11, 2009 They don't have the reputation but Kia has the same quality as Toyota, cuz think. If Kia were crap and they gave Such a long warranty for everything people will start to return faulty cars and Kia Would go bankrupt from repairing KIas. So i think this warranty Which Kia Gives is to show that they are really confident in their car's Quality. END

      February 12, 2012 at 1:54 am | Reply
  5. Joe C

    I hope this data does not have some believing it indicates the number of foreigners who come to America on student visas and then likely to leave unless given an H-1 visa. I expect that the vast majority of these foreign born student already had green cards or were even naturalized in American before reaching college age and would be employing their skills here any way.

    I personally believe that a lot of arguments made for the H-1 visa are exaggerated, especially when I read about the number of engineers and scientists left unemployed in Silicon Valley during the current recession.

    November 24, 2011 at 12:55 am | Reply
  6. Bob

    I have a Masters in Biochemistry and cant get a job bc there are so many unemployed scientists and engineers already for so few jobs. Politicians (Republican and Democrats) are totally naive and don't care about the American worker... giving the best jobs away to foreigners, by allowing businesses to go after the cheapest worker. Businesses benefit bc wages are suppressed when there is a flood of people (supply and demand), and Romeny and Gingrich want to increase this number! And stamp a green card to a degree!! Do they not care about American workers??? Insanity!!

    November 24, 2011 at 2:01 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      I understand your feeling of injustice, that foreign workers seem to be prioritised. The fairest solution would be that work permit be granted according to merits. I'm sure there are many talented among the millions of foreign students in the U.S.

      November 24, 2011 at 8:44 am | Reply
      • Onesmallvoice

        On the other hand, if it wasn't for all the German scientists and engineers who came to this country right after WW2, this country would be very far behind the Russians in space instead of ahead of them! We Americans really do need to get over our superiority complex!!!

        November 24, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  7. John_H_Mayor

    Stop regulating industry and foreign-born geniuses will fight each other to get here in order to reap the rewards of a free market. We will also bound ahead with or without an influx of foreigners....Look at what happened in the post-Civil War era when we led the world in technological advances and coincidentally had the freest market in history.

    November 25, 2011 at 9:59 am | Reply
    • Joe C

      If by "Stop regulating industry" you mean lowering standards for workplace safety, rights and compensation, of course third world engineers will flock here and displace American engineers. Is that the better alternative than just exporting the jobs directly to their country?

      November 25, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Reply
      • Lucinda

        DeMitch on February 4, 2010 What year do you have? Is it a smooth ride or do you feel the bumps in the road? Is the cabin quiet or can you hear ioustde noise? Im trying to decide between the Edge, Chevy EQ, and Kia Sorrento. Need a little help.

        March 13, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  8. CharlieSeattle

    I check the work of many of the designers in our affiliate office in India. All the designers there are Engineers but it tops out at 10 grade level skill wise. Most of what they screw up has to be reworked extensively and remodeled here.

    But they work for $1.50 an hour. So the US workers are charged with training them to eventually take our jobs.

    November 25, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Reply
    • Get lost, fakystan.

      Come on, Charlie Chaplin. Did you check your hat and stick??? Do they really need, re-work???
      Puff, I hold my nose.

      November 25, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Reply
    • Claudius II

      The rate for an Indian chemical engineer was $1.59 /hr not $1.50 /hr last time I checked. However this discrepancy can also be attributed to "engineering round-off".

      February 22, 2013 at 11:45 am | Reply
  9. Karur

    It is a huge consolation that the GOP candidates seemed to agree on at least one thing i.e support excellence in Science/Technology through creative immigration measures. There is little doubt that the US has gained significantly by foreign brains and this must be preserved in the future if the US wishes to maintain its World Super power status.The contrast between the US and Europe is stark for this important reason

    November 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Reply
  10. althehun

    I teach technical courses for Electrical Engineers. My class sizes are generally 10-12, out of which usually at least 80 percent are foreign born. Some of my classes are 100 percent foreign born. Since I was also born in Europe, I often start such class by joking; "Well then, in this class no-one, including the Instructor, speaks English."

    November 25, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Reply
  11. mimi jacques

    Americans should ask only one question- why is it that US students can not muster mathematics and sciences? Asian and European students can- they have ten fingers to start counting- not sixteen (US was supposed to go metric already in 1986- never enacted the agreement);kids have botany,zoology,environmental studies from grade 1- then it is easy to comprehend chemiistry-physics etc. BTW there are no schoolboards hindering studies and teachers either- schoold are not political platforms- they are there for learning. America had Benjamin Franklin- his main trait was curiosity- Paul Revere- another curious person- Thomas Jefferson- curious. etc. they were the first to adapt scientific iprinciples in explaining how things worked. Benjamin Franklin -flying his kite in a thunderstorm- understood some principles of electricity.Kids should have their science -lab-kits given as presents on the first day of school- to pique their interest. Space program was also imported to US with foreign scientists- the other half went to USSR.

    November 26, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Reply
  12. Peter

    It does not matter who and how many got the degree. Problem is most of the industries moving East. Starting with manufacturing, then engineering and soon science. We will soon, if not already, see more patents being filed in the East than in USA. What good a degree is if there is no employers hiring them? Will engineers and scientists keep coming to USA if there is no companies hiring them? I already saw Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, ... going back to there own country to be employed. We are on the losing path if our economy is based on the health of Wallstreet alone. Already our industries are already shrinking, soon our spending power (market) will contract as a result and in this world, only money talks.

    November 26, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Reply
    • Rob Fielding

      We need to keep the educated ones. Companies are definitely saving money in the short-term by outsourcing as much as possible. But then people trying to figure out their futures see this, and fewer people are going into engineering and science; and the foreign born ones go back home with their degrees to compete against us. It's strategic STUPIDITY. We won't have the mechanical and electrical engineers to innovate in the next generation. Who is dumb enough to think that you can continue to project power with a service economy, where we are somebody else's store front and serving each other lattes? If you get into a war, you don't think about fighting fairly, but think about winning. High employment is the MOST important goal (how else do you maintain a mandate in a democracy?). If the current situation benefits shareholders but doesn't employ very many people in the US while draining away our talent... how is it good? I could not care less about the ideological reasoning behind it, or how "efficient" (ie: less people producing more) a company that doesn't employ anybody actually is.

      November 27, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  13. Rafael

    I think about practicing medicine in the United States, when I finish my studies in Brazil. I have lived in the U.S. for 10 years, and I have visited almost all states. I love the U.S. with all my heart, and I'll list here a few things that I consider very attractive about it, and things that I think to be better in Brazil.

    Good things about America, in general terms, from my perspective:
    – Safer: The police and justice systems are very advanced. Poverty does exist in the U.S., but it's not trowed at your face and it rarely puts a gun on your chest.
    – Cheaper industrialized products: Quality food is more expensive than in Brazil, but everything from electronics to cars are much more affordable in comparison.

    Things that are better in Brazil, in general terms, from my perspective:
    – Less work: Brazilians have about 60 days of vacation per year (including holidays and carnaval). I put value in being able to relax, travel, and enjoy life.
    – Better job security: Brazil has free public hospitals, so the demand for health care professionals is through the roof like if an asteroid had hit Manhattan.

    November 27, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Reply
    • Stefan

      Thanks for your interesting analysis and insight.

      November 29, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Reply
      • Noe

        JakeHustle2 on November 20, 2008 bteetr warranty doesnt mean they make good cars! they dont have toyota's good reputation!

        February 12, 2012 at 1:39 am |
  14. David

    We may start with nothing but we can come up with something big later if you use your brillant minds in use and work for your self I invest my self doing something that i dream of.

    November 28, 2011 at 8:57 am | Reply
  15. Hamer

    I find it ridiculous these GOP candidates want to meddle in the STEM marketplace. They preach free markets, so why don't they let the market work in this case. Let shortages push salaries higher and attract new students. A third of the PhD scientists work for the Federal government and the GOP house proprosed a five year pay freeze and a 10% workforce cut. That will get the best and the brightests rushing to become scientists. Research funding at the federal level has been flat for several years. Go to the best STEM schools in the country and see how the soon to be new PhDs feel about the job market. It is a terrible time to be coming on the market as a young scientist. All the bright undergrads will see the plight of the graduate students and look for better opprotunities.

    On a side note, I think foreign students do make a great contribution to our country. I think there has to be some limit on the number that are allowed to work here and we need to focus on getting the best of them.

    December 2, 2011 at 10:04 am | Reply
  16. Erika

    I'm that supposedly rare animal- an American who excels at math and science and has her degrees in chemistry. The influx of foreigners has pushed wages in my profession very low. There is no support for scientists who were born here and that is why we see what we are seeing. It has nothing to do with "Americans can't do math, science." Speak for yourselves! Many can, and when they see they can make much more in finance or law than in science, they do what is logical. Let's stop importing people to compete against native born workers and assuming our imports will want to stay in the USA. I know many scientists who are counting down the days until they go back to their own countries. One of my good Chinese chemist friends told me he would aid China if China ever entered a war with the USA. His loyalty is to the country of his birth, not the country that currently employs him. Meanwhile, unemployment is a problem for native born Americans who study math, science and engineering. Instead of flinging H1-B visas around, let the free markets work- let demand compel companies to pay more to attract top talent instead of flooding the market with an oversupply of foreigners.

    December 2, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  17. Muin

    Most people here seem to think American education quality is better than foreign education. I agree. However, this high quality is immaterial in the job market. You just have to know certain things in order to do a specific job in a company. So if a company finds a foreign graduate or foreign born graduate with matching skill set who would do it for a lower wage, that company would be more than happy to use him or her. These are just facts of life.

    December 3, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Reply
  18. Heman

    How would you react to know that big corps are all transferring DoD and DoE projects to other countries as they cant hire foreign workers on those projects in USA. The pathetic part is they are doing this to save bottom dollars citing visa regulations and keeping it hidden from both governments. Also if they hire a foreign engineer in USA – he will earn and spend – here – and not his native country. GE – for instance is moving all the US Aero Jobs to China and India and keeping it from all the govts – to hire 2 or maybe even 3 engineers for the price of one

    December 4, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Reply
    • Ivan

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      March 11, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  19. JoshM

    My co-workers who are from India admits that there are many Indians in this country fake their education and work credentials in order to get a job. HR and background check for foreign countries are impossible because there are agencies in India that are set up to vouch for the person. Regarding the difference in education, India churns out computer science engineer like a factory by teaching them only computer science topics and nothing else. This is unlike USA where we are forced to electives and endless classes on theories. Many cases, Indian professors who get low pay will open up for bribes and hand out undeserving grades. As for Indian being more experience, if the last 10 years, all the new projects are sent to Indian while the US work force are stuck in maintenance mode, it is a no brainer that the US work force are now being layoff for lagging behind. In the end this is all about corporate greed and I am sick of articles and presidential rhetoric saying stupid things such as US works are not as good in math or science and not enough work force to fill the need of IT. Corporations and Politicians are the problem and they know it too.

    July 15, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  20. neftrony

    you must read memorableparty , just clicks away

    August 7, 2012 at 3:57 am | Reply

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