USA Losing Scientists and Engineers Educated in the USA

Posted on March 20, 2009  Comments (7)

The USA continues to lose ground, in retaining the relative science and engineering strength it has retained for the last 50 plus years. As I have said before this trend is nearly inevitable – the challenge for the USA is to reduce the speed of their decline in relative position.

A new open access report, Losing the World’s Best and Brightest, explores the minds of current foreign science and engineering students that are studying in the USA. This is another in the list of reports on similar topics by Vivek Wadhwa and Richard Freeman. And again they point out the long term economic losses the USA is setting up by failing to retain the talent trained at our universities. It is a problem for the USA and a great benefit for countries like India and China.

“Foreign students receive nearly 60% of all engineering doctorates and more than half of all mathematics, computer sciences, physics and economics doctorates awarded in the United States. These foreign nationals end up making jobs, not taking jobs,” said Wadhwa. “They bring insights into growing global markets and fresh ideas. Research has shown that they even end up boosting innovation by U.S. inventors. Losing them is an economic tragedy.”

According to the study’s findings, very few foreign students would like to stay in the United States permanently—only 6% of Indian, 10 percent of Chinese and 15% of Europeans. And fewer foreign students than the historical norm expressed interest in staying in the United States after they graduate. Only 58% of Indian, 54% of Chinese and 40% of European students wish to stay for several years after graduation. Previous National Science Foundation research has shown 68% of foreigners who received science and engineering doctorates stayed for extended periods of time, including 73% of those who studied computer science. The five-year minimum stay rate was 92% for Chinese students and 85% for Indian students.

The vast majority of foreign student and 85% of Indians and Chinese and 72% of Europeans are concerned about obtaining work visas. 74% of Indians, 76% of Chinese, and 58% of Europeans are also worried about obtaining jobs in their fields. Students appear to be less concerned about getting permanent-resident visas than they are about short-term jobs. Only 38% of Indian students, 55% of Chinese, and 53% of Europeans expressed concerns about obtaining permanent residency in the USA.

On the tonight show yesterday, President Obama said

we need young people, instead of — a smart kid coming out of school, instead of wanting to be an investment banker, we need them to decide they want to be an engineer, they want to be a scientist, they want to be a doctor or a teacher.

And if we’re rewarding those kinds of things that actually contribute to making things and making people’s lives better, that’s going to put our economy on solid footing. We won’t have this kind of bubble-and-bust economy that we’ve gotten so caught up in for the last several years.

Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, recently expressed his frustration with the policies discouraging science and engineering graduates staying in the USA after they complete their education.

That is a brilliant [actually not brilliant at all] strategy take the best people hire them in American universities and then kick them out” It happens. “Its shocking.” It happens. “I know we are fighting against it.” “We America remain, by far the place of choice for education, particularly higher education.”

Related: Invest in Science for a Strong EconomyScience, Engineering and the Future of the American EconomyUSA Under-counting Engineering GraduatesLosing scientists and engineers will reduce economic performance of the USADiplomacy and Science Research

7 Responses to “USA Losing Scientists and Engineers Educated in the USA”

  1. Will
    March 21st, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

    I’ve been watching this happen for the last year here in Washington DC. 3 of my friends from overseas (Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam) have completed their master’s degrees and, because of the difficulty in finding an employer willing to go through the hassle of work visas, 1 has already returned home, 1 will this summer, and 1 will end up staying only if he can get on with an international organization like the World Bank. Granted, these are business and international affairs degrees, not science/engineering, but the problem’s the same: bring in the smartest people from their home countries, educate them, then send them home. In the Cold War that was considered a good thing because you increased the number of people around the world who were fans of capitalism and democracy and the USA. Today, though, we don’t need that as much as we need those talented people to stay. Our immigration system needs some serious overhauling.

  2. gregbo
    March 29th, 2009 @ 3:12 am

    We have over 8% unemployment in the US. California unemployment is over 9%. Other states are reporting over 10%. The visa programs instituted to bring people from outside the US to do tech work were intended to fill short-term staffing needs. Those needs are no longer necessary because there are plenty of qualified under- or unemployed candidates looking for work.

    It pains me to hear that people like Eric Schmidt still assert that there is a lack of qualified candidates. Perhaps he should revamp the Google Hiring program so that candidates do not die in limbo.

    WRT people studying investment banking, rather than engineering, science, etc., why not? Especially if there is more career security. There is a relationship between investment banking and technology development – after all, where does the vast majority of startup money come from? Furthermore, why shouldn’t our best and brightest study investment banking, if they can do a better job than the crooks that ran/run companies like AIG?

  3. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Keeping Out Technology Workers is not a Good Economic Strategy
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  4. David
    June 26th, 2009 @ 7:19 am

    I am an older engineer. It is difficult to maintain employment. I was laid off at the end of May. I have been interviewing. My last interview was typical. About half the people working at the company were Indians on an H1B visa. Nothing that they were doing was particularly high tech. It was work that I had done in the past. What they were interviewing me for was pretty much to be the Indian’s babysitters as the potential employer admitted they were green and did not understand english all that well (they could read he said, but were incapable of writing a good functional spec or user docs). So, I asked him why they were using them? He said, “how do you beat $20/hr and no benefits?”

    My son is a CPA. He told me that it was obvious that engineering was not a good profession. He said the smart kids at Georgia Tech were opting out of engineering. My daughters are MBAs and teachers. Again, they could have been an engineer. But, as my older daughter said, “look Dad, you have had to change jobs five times over the last twenty years to be employed. I want consistent employment to raise a family.”

    What it really comes down to is this: engineering just isn’t that good of a profession. So, the best and brightest are doing other things.

  5. Tim Carrs
    September 4th, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

    I have a degree in an engineering technology and an advanced degree in mathematics. I CAN’T FIND WORK. I have watch tens of thousands of experienced engineers and scientists lose their jobs, never to work as engineers again. Not to mention programmers. It happen in Pennsylvania
    (steel industry). Happened in Detroit (auto industry). I was there when
    it happened on Long Island, NY. The electronic and aerospeace industry. It recently happened in Silicon Valley,Ca. I am sure it has and is still happening all over the US. In NYC I saw Computer and Electrical Engineers, recent grads with good grades, being trained as car mechanics. NO JOKE. There were no employment opportunities. Why would any US student go into engineering, science or mathematics if they CAN NOT FIND WORK? The US does not make anything any more. Further, the US imports these people from outside the country. Russians, Indians, Chinese, etc. Not to mention most of these employment categories are overseas. Why would any want to work 4-8 years to obtain degrees in these
    areas if you can not find work???????

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