NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 30, 2007

One of the myths dogging the immigration debate is that employers are fibbing (or grossly exaggerating) when they claim that hiring foreign professionals is unavoidable because U.S.-born Ph.D.s are hard to come by.  But a new report on doctorates from U.S. universities shows they're telling the truth, and then some, says the Wall Street Journal.

According to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago:

  • Foreign-born students holding temporary visas received 33 percent of all research doctorates awarded by U.S. universities in 2006, up from 25 percent in 2001.
  • But more to the point of business competitiveness, foreign students comprised 44 percent of science and engineering doctorates last year.
  • The percentage of doctorates earned by U.S. citizens ranged from lows of 32 percent in engineering and 47 percent in physical sciences, to highs of 87 percent in education and 78 percent in humanities.

Nevertheless, immigration opponents and economic protectionists still claim that the likes of Intel and Oracle merely want to hire Chinese engineers on the cheap, says the Journal.  But in reality:

  • U.S. law already prohibits companies from paying these foreign nationals less than natives.  
  • All other things equal, the American job applicant has an advantage because employers are required to pay an additional $4,000-$6,000 in taxes and fees on every H-1B visa holder they hire.

Closing the door to foreign professionals puts U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage and pushes jobs out of the country, says the Journal.  It makes little sense for American universities to educate these talented foreign students, only to send them packing after graduation. Current policies have universities such as MIT and Stanford educating the next generation of innovators -- and then deporting them to create wealth elsewhere.

Source: Editorial, "American Brain Drain," Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2007.

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