The Fake STEM Worker Shortage

A blog about business and economics.
April 24 2013 6:41 PM

Is There Really a STEM Worker Shortage?

One of my more heterodox political views is that advocacy groups do themselves a disservice by adopting BS rhetoric that simply sounds good, because they leave themselves excessively vulnerable to attack. A great illustration comes today from an Economic Policy Institute study from Hal Salzman, Daniel Kuehn, and Lindsay Lowell that shows pretty persuasively that there's no real "shortage" of STEM workers in the American economy. They look at this through a variety of lenses, but the key one is simply that you're not seeing big wage gains for STEM workers of the sort that a shortage would cause. And since a lot of the rhetoric around H1-B visas for highly skilled guestworkers has focused on an alleged shortage, this kind of research constitutes a big blow to that whole frame.

At the same time, if you'd just framed the case for skilled immigrants correctly in the first place I don't think this study does really any damage to it. An influx of STEM migrants is good for the migrants themselves. It's good for the fiscal posture of the United States and for the tax base of the localities in which the STEM workers reside. And it's good for people with complementary skills or occupations, whether that's journalists or dentists or barbers or waitresses or cab drivers or what have you. Whether or not STEM migrants impose some kind of pecuniary externality on native born American STEM workers, it's a good deal all things considered.

Advertisement

But is there a "shortage"? It looks like maybe not.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.