Are Visa Shortages Discouraging America's Foreign Born Engineers?
Foreign students receiving advanced degrees from U.S. institutions can either choose to stay in the United States and work or return to their country of origin. This study examines the factors which relate to this decision for foreign doctoral recipients at American science, technology, and engineering programs between 1988 and 2004.This research is prompted by recent Congressional interest in attracting high-skilled labor through immigration reform. There is also an interest among academics who follow Michael Finn's Oakridge Institute research regarding a possible decline in so-called "doctoral stay rates" in science, technology and engineering.The principal hypothesis examined in this study is that visa availability relates to stay rates. As members of Congress are considering raising visa caps on foreign-born graduates of American science, technology, and engineering programs, it would be useful to know whether this correlates to increased stay rates. Alternatively, some say the post 9/11 cultural environment in the United States has become less welcoming to foreigners and depressed stay rates. This hypothesis will also be considered.The study uses Michael Finn's data regarding doctoral cohorts with 191 observations to quantitatively analyze relationships through country fixed effects regressions. Each observation represents the migration pattern of a geographic region's cohort after five years have passed since their graduation from an American science, technology, or engineering doctoral program. Controls reflecting the existing literature regarding the labor economy were included in the models.In summary, the results of the regressions indicate that visa shortages do not significantly relate to the stay rates of foreign born doctorate-level scientists and engineers graduating from American institutions. Employment, economic growth, and spending on research are all more likely to have relationships with the decision to remain in the domestic labor force after graduation. Policymakers might therefore prioritize action in the latter areas to keep newly educated doctors in America.