This is a week that reminds us of how many people from around the world want to harm the U.S. and just how easy it can be. This is a day when a daughter who was supposed to be coming home for the weekend is unable to leave her apartment, catch the “T” or even get a cab to North or South Station where no trains or buses are leaving the city of Boston anyway. For me at least, its not an easy time to be rationale and analytical. That is precisely why this is an especially good afternoon to highlight, in one small way, how much the presence in the U.S. of individuals from the rest of the world contributes to our economy, communities, and society.
A lot of attention is focused on the relative inability of the U.S. to produce enough individuals with the education and training needed to fill critical openings in scientific, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Why that is is the subject for another (or many other) posts. There aren’t enough individuals in this country with STEM degrees to meet existing demand according to businesses that employ them. Looking at unemployment rates for individuals with science, tech, engineering and math degrees seems to validate that belief. But the U.S. would be even further from meeting the demand if it were not able to tap a global labor market.
I’ve been looking at trends that affect recent college graduates so I will focus on the importance of foreign-born individuals to the supply of skilled workers among recent college graduates and younger workers in the U.S.. I sorted data on individuals in the U.S. workforce, age 24-29, with a Bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the college major of their first college degree, and then by the percentage of individuals in each major that were foreign-born. The results are striking. Overall, about 13.6 percent of all workers age 24-29, with at least a Bachelor’s, are foreign-born. However, the percentage in STEM majors is dramatically higher, comprising 30, 40, to as much as 50 percent of young people and recent graduates in some major fields of study. By far, the majors with the highest percentage of individuals that are foreign-born are STEM majors.
The data make clear how important the rest of the world is, and will continue to be, in meeting our economy’s demand for skilled workers. On an afternoon, in a day, during a week, like this one, data doesn’t have much influence on our thoughts or maybe just not on mine, and that is all the more reason to look closely at it.