How STEM Mythology Shortchanges American Workers
A new Howard University study shows, once again, that the H-1B “skilled” visa program is based on industry-promoted myths that work against Americans. The report finds that employment projections are often wildly inaccurate and that jobless rates are frequently mischaracterized, while wage growth data — the most direct measure of supply and demand – are downplayed or ignored altogether.
Examining workforce statistics in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field, professor Ron Hira concluded there are “no widespread or lasting labor shortages” in the highly profitable sector of the U.S. economy.
Contrary to conventional wisdom (mythology), not every computer or math job demands a four-year degree. The large computer support sector does not typically require any college diploma.
A comparison of employment growth projections for 2020-2030 with educational attainment in the computer and math fields indicates that roughly 569,000 of the 734,900 projected jobs will require a bachelor’s degree. This translates to an average growth of 56,900 degreed positions annually.
“In 2020, the number of U.S. bachelor’s degrees conferred in computer science alone was 97,047 — 40,147 more than the implied annual demand from Bureau of Labor Statistics projections,” Hira writes.
The surplus is even more pronounced in engineering, where the number of college degrees produced in a single academic year (148,120 in 2019–20) exceeded not only the projected annual growth, but the entire 10-year projected job growth from 2020 to 2030 (127,700).
These numbers help to explain sluggish STEM salaries. Hira notes: “Although nominal wages increased for workers between 2016 and 2021, the rates of increase for major categories of STEM occupations lag those for management and professional occupations and for all full-time workers.”
Stunningly, Hira found that “real wages declined for all types of engineers, as well as for several other STEM occupations, including software developers, the largest and highest-skilled segment of computer occupations.”
Aside from industry’s obvious pecuniary motives for importing ever more foreign laborers, David North of the Center for Immigration Studies suggests an additional reason why STEM-related companies perpetuate their mythology of paucity.
“Another factor that leads many H-1 employers, particularly those in the recruiting and programmer-rental business, to favor foreign workers over domestic ones is the imbalance in power. An employer of an H-1B cannot only threaten to fire the foreign worker, he can also threaten to end that worker’s legal stay in the country. No U.S. citizen worker can be threatened in this manner.”
Seems that the STEM fairy tale reads more like a nightmare for American workers and visa holders alike.