Like Jack Kennedy’s phony “missile gap” panic in the 1960 election, tech firms have been warning that Americans are too stupid for science and engineering and so it is imperative to import foreigners.
As we examined the evidence, several points became clear: The United States needs to improve education broadly rather than expand particular fields of study; look inward rather than abroad for exemplary educational models, in light of the limits of international comparisons; and focus on the core lessons about improving the lowest-performing group of students. There is actually no compelling evidence that, over all, the educational pipeline is failing to meet demand.
Our recent analysis of Department of Education data for three decades followed students from high school to the job market. We found little in the way of overall change in students’ pursuit of science-and-engineering studies or their entry into those careers over the past 30 years. We found that while a steady proportion of college students graduated in science and engineering, no more than half of them landed jobs in a formally defined core science or engineering occupation. …
Finally, some industry lobbying groups and high-tech companies seek to augment the supply of domestic workers by importing foreign labor on temporary visas. … Ensuring that labor markets are not distorted by short-term visas, which in their current form lead to a number of labor-market and social problems, is not anti-immigrant, and does not undermine the strength of U.S. science and engineering. In fact, raising the numbers of temporary visas for foreign workers during cyclical talent shortages can distort labor markets and discourage domestic students from careers in engineering and the sciences.