Essays on Immigration and Specialization in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Fields
Dramski, Pavel I.
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Policymakers have struggled with the question of how best to increase the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. U.S.-educated immigrants and the U.S.-born children of immigrants may hold the key to understanding the role of comparative advantage in entering STEM fields. Both groups are more likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree in STEM fields compared with natives with U.S.-born parents. Using data on recent college graduates from the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Survey of 2008, I find that measures of English proficiency fully explain the STEM obtainment gap between U.S.-educated immigrants and natives with U.S.-born parents, as well as about 40 percent of the gap between U.S.-born children of immigrants with two foreign-born parents and natives with U.S.-born parents, conditional on demographics, mathematical ability, and college preparation. Using data on adults from the American Community Survey from 2009 to 2012, I also find that measures of English proficiency fully explain the STEM obtainment gap between U.S.-educated immigrants and U.S.-born adults, conditional on demographics. There is little supporting evidence that academic preparation, mathematical ability, or country effects are creating the intergenerational gaps. I also investigate the post-undergraduate outcomes of STEM graduates and how they differ between immigrants and natives. Using data from the American Community Survey from 2009 to 2013, I find that about 68 percent of all STEM majors are not employed in a STEM occupation. Natives are about 3 percentage points more likely to be employed outside of a STEM field than immigrants. Male STEM graduates employed outside of a STEM field may have earned up to 12 percentage points more if they stayed in a STEM occupation. Similarly, female STEM graduates employed outside of a STEM field may have earned up to 32 percent more if they stayed in a STEM occupation.
Science and Technology Work Force