Science is a global enterprise. The common laws of nature cross political boundaries, and the international movement of people and knowledge made science global long before "globalization" became a label for the increasing interconnections now forming among the world's economies. The rapid development of the capacity to make scientific and technical innovations is creating a new competitive environment. New ways of doing business and performing R&D take advantage of gains from new knowledge discovered anywhere in the world, from increases in foreign economic development, and from the expanding international migration of highly trained scientists and engineers.
This section begins with an overview of what is known about S&E labor forces in advanced countries, which mostly concerns researchers and people performing R&D for multinational firms. The remainder of the section deals with foreign-born scientists and engineers in the United States.
Other chapters provide indirect indicators on the global S&E labor force. Chapter 2 reports on the production of new scientists and engineers through university degree programs. Chapter 4 provides indicators of R&D performed globally, chapter 5 discusses publications output and international collaboration, and chapter 6 has information on high-technology activities and global patenting activity.
There are no comprehensive measures of the global S&E labor force, but fragmentary data on the global S&E labor force suggest that the U.S. world share is continuing to decline, even as U.S. reliance on foreign-born scientists and engineers may be near or at a historic high. Data exist within some national data systems, and some countries report data in standardized form to international agencies such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Existing data provide a strong indication of rapid growth in the number of individuals who pursue advanced education and find employment in technical fields, particularly in developing nations.
OECD collects data on researchers from its member countries and selected other countries. Unfortunately, this source misses many countries that appear to have high levels of S&T activity, including India, Brazil, and Israel.
One widely available measure of the education level of a country's population is the number of its residents with a tertiary level of education. This is roughly equivalent in U.S. terms to individuals who have earned at least a technical associate's degree, but also includes all higher degrees up to the doctorate. Figure
Highly Skilled Migrants in OECD Countries
Docquier and Marfouk (2004) made estimates of the highly educated international migrants residing in OECD countries by using data from various national censuses. Based on their data, figure
The United States, ranking 11th with 448,000 tertiary-educated citizens who live in other OECD countries, has a fairly small high-skilled diaspora compared with its population, and particularly compared with its number of educated workers.
MNCs perform a substantial proportion of R&D through foreign direct investment (FDI) (see chapter 4). Data on MNC R&D employment include all employees engaged in research and development, including managers, scientists, engineers, and other professional and technical employees. Data on R&D employment of parent companies of U.S. MNCs and their overseas affiliates are available every 5 years from the Survey of U.S. Direct Investment Abroad conducted by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Separately, data on R&D employment by foreign-based MNCs in the United States are available from BEA's Survey of Foreign Direct Investment in the United States.
By definition, FDI does not include external arrangements ranging from R&D contracting to consulting work and strategic collaborations. Nevertheless, R&D employment by subsidiaries is an important indicator of international R&D activity.
R&D employment in the United States by foreign firms
grew slightly faster than R&D employment abroad by U.S.
firms. R&D employment in the United States by majority-owned
affiliates of foreign firms rose from 89,800 in 1994
to 128,500 in 2004, for a 43% increase over the decade (figure
The average annual growth in R&D employment abroad by U.S. firms from 1994 to 2004 was only 3% and did not produce a large shift in their overseas employment, which rose from 14% to 16% of their total.
The data in both figure
The knowledge and specialized skills of scientists and engineers can be transferred across national borders through the physical movement of people. Governments in many industrialized countries increasingly view the immigration of skilled S&E workers as an important contributor to the quality and flexibility of their S&E labor force. Many countries have not only increased their research investments, but have also made encouraging high-skilled immigration an important part of their national economic strategies.
The United States has benefited, and continues to benefit, from this international flow of knowledge and personnel (see Regets 2001 for a general discussion of high-skilled migration). However, competition for skilled labor continues to increase. A National Science Board taskforce noted that "global competition for S&E talent is intensifying, such that the United States may not be able to rely on the international S&E labor market to fill unmet skill needs" (NSB 2003). (See sidebar "High-Skill Migration to Japan and the UK.")
Broadly consistent estimates of U.S. reliance on foreign-born
scientists and engineers are available from several
SESTAT surveys include only individuals who were counted in the most recent Decennial Censuses or who received a U.S. S&E degree, thereby missing recently arrived foreign-born and foreign-educated scientists and engineers. Yet, a large proportion of the foreign-born and foreign-educated members of the S&E labor force are recent arrivals. For example, in 2000, about 43% of all college-educated foreign-born workers in U.S. S&E occupations reported arriving in the United States after 1990; among doctorate holders 62% reported arriving after this date.
The 2000 census data provide a good estimate of the foreign born who were actually in the United States in April 2000 but give no information about those performing S&E tasks in a wide variety of non-S&E occupations (as discussed earlier in this chapter), nor about which postsecondary teachers are in S&E fields. Within these limitations, the Census Bureau's 2007 American Community Survey permits an analysis of trends in the proportion of the foreign born in S&E occupations at each degree level during the current decade. It shows growth of 3 percentage points overall, with an extra 4 percentage points each at the master's degree and doctorate levels.
Between 2003 and 2007, employment of college graduates
in nonacademic S&E occupations, as measured by
the ACS, increased by 345,000: 235,000 U.S. natives and
110,000 foreign born (figure
Details on the proportion of foreign-born S&E degree
holders by field of degree are shown in table
Origins of S&E Immigrants
Immigrant scientists and engineers come from a broad range of countries. Figure
Source of Education for S&E Immigrants
The majority of foreign-born scientists and engineers in the United States first came to the United States to study, but a substantial number came to the United States after receiving their university training abroad. Table
Across all levels of degree, 42% of the university-educated foreign born in the United States had their highest degree from a foreign educational institution and 56% had at least one foreign degree. At the highest level of education, 33% of foreign-born doctorate holders earned their doctorates from a foreign school.
The prevalence of foreign degrees among foreign-born
S&E degree holders has been increasing over time (figure
Citizenship and Visa Status of Foreign-Born
Scientists and Engineers in the United States
The length of time it takes for foreign scientists and engineers to earn U.S. citizenship affects both their decision to come to the United States and their subsequent decision to stay. As figure
Temporary Work Visas
In recent years, policy discussion has focused on the use of various forms of temporary work visas by foreign-born scientists and other high-skilled workers. The use of these temporary visas for high-skilled workers has increased over time (as seen in figure
J-1 Exchange Visas. Of the visa types shown, the J-1 exchange visitor visa is the most issued—more than 350,000 in FY 2008. However, many of these visas are given to lower skilled workers, and many J-1s are issued for semester or summer stays. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) showed approximately 165,000 J-1 visa holders in the United States, of whom 50% were in categories that were clearly highly skilled, including nearly 50,000 professors and research scholars.
Other Visa Types. There has also been growth in visas
issued in other high-skilled categories. Between 2003 and
2008, issuances of L-1 (intracompany transfer) visas grew
by 47% to 84,000. The smallest series shown in Figure
H-1B temporary work visas are likely to account for a larger number of high-skilled workers than other visa classes. The United States typically issues H-1B visas for 3 years with the possibility of a 3-year renewal. In October 2003, the United States lowered its annual ceiling on admissions from 195,000 to 65,000, but granted universities and academic research institutions exemptions in their own hiring. In 2005, the United States granted an additional 20,000 exemptions for students receiving master's degrees or doctorates from U.S. schools.
Although the occupational categories used in H-1B visa
records do not precisely correspond to the classifications
used elsewhere in this chapter, it is safe to say that the bulk
of H-1B visa recipients work in S&E or S&E-related occupations
In 2006, half of new H-1B visa recipients were employed in computer-related occupations. This represents a recent increase from a low of 25% in 2002. Of those receiving new H-1B visas in 2006 who were in computer-related occupations, 44% had master's degrees and just over 1% had doctorates.
Characteristics of Workers Issued New H-1B Visas
Education Levels. In FY 2006, 57% of new H-1B visa recipients had advanced degrees, including 41% with master's degrees, 5% with professional degrees, and 11% with doctorates. This degree distribution differs by occupation, with 87% of those holding advanced degrees in math and physical sciences occupations (47% with doctorates) and 89% in life science occupations (61% with doctorates).
Many H-1B visa recipients earned their degrees abroad. In FY 2006, 41% of doctorate holders, 79% of professional degree holders, and 48% of master's degree holders who received H-1B visas indicated on their applications that they did not have a graduate degree from a U.S. institution. This indicates both the use of the H-1B visa as a way for graduates of U.S. schools to continue their careers in the United States and the importance of the H-1B visa in bringing foreign-educated individuals into the United States (DHS/ICE 2006).
H-1B Country of Citizenship. More than half of recent
H-1B visa recipients were from India and an additional 9%
from China. Among doctorate holders, one-third were from
China and another 13% from India (figures
Relatively few doctorate holders from countries with better university systems had U.S. degrees. For example, the United Kingdom (21%), Germany (28%), Canada (29%), France (30%), and Japan (31%). In contrast, 71% of doctorate holders from China and 59% of doctorate holders from India claimed advanced degrees from U.S. institutions on their visa applications.
H-1B Salaries. Table
Visa Applications and Rejections for Students and
The F-1 and J-1 visas used by students and exchange visitors have recovered from the declines experienced after September 11, 2001 (see table
Stay Rates for U.S. Doctorate Recipients with
Many foreign students opt to stay in the United States after earning their degree. As reported in the Survey of Earned Doctorates, between 2004 and 2007, 76% to 82% of non-U.S. citizen S&E doctorates had firm commitments for work or study in the United States at the time of graduation. The rates were slightly lower for temporary visa holders over the same time period (75% to 81%) (see chapter 2 for further discussion).
Longer-term stay rates are also high. According to a report
by Michael Finn (2009) of the Oak Ridge Institute
for Science and Education, 62% of 2002 U.S. S&E
doctorate recipients with temporary visas were in the United
States in 2007. This is down slightly from a 65% 5-year stay
rate found in 2005 (figure
New doctorate recipients in 2002 faced relatively poor labor market conditions (see discussions earlier in this chapter), and foreign students earning degrees may have also been worried about greater difficulties with securing visas for themselves and their families.
There was also a geographic pattern to the changes in 5-year stay rates for foreign S&E doctorate recipients. Stay rates actually showed large percentage point increases for students from the largest European source countries: the UK (+6 percentage points) and Germany (+3 percentage points). The overall decline in stay rate between 2005 and 2007 was driven largely by decreases in stay rates for several Asian source locations: Taiwan (−8 percentage points), Japan (−6 percentage points), and India (−4 percentage points).
Finn also estimates stay rates for doctorate recipients
from graduate programs of different quality based on ratings of faculty by the publication U.S. News and World Report and on separate ratings by the National Research Council.
Finn used these ratings to select 20 to 25 "top-rated" departments
in major S&E fields. Doctorate recipients from
the graduate programs that Finn designated as top rated
were somewhat less likely to remain in the United States
than were graduates of other programs (see table