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Immigration in High-Skill Labor Markets: The Impact of Foreign Students on the Earnings of Doctorates

In: Science and Engineering Careers in the United States: An Analysis of Markets and Employment

  • George J. Borjas

The rapid growth in the number of foreign students enrolled in American universities has transformed the higher education system, particularly at the graduate level. Many of these newly minted doctorates remain in the United States after receiving their doctoral degrees, so that the foreign student influx can have a significant impact in the labor market for high-skill workers. Using data drawn from the Survey of Earned Doctorates and the Survey of Doctoral Recipients, the study shows that a foreign student influx into a particular doctoral field at a particular time had a significant and adverse effect on the earnings of doctorates in that field who graduated at roughly the same time. A 10 percent immigration-induced increase in the supply of doctorates lowers the wage of competing workers by about 3 to 4 percent. About half of this adverse wage effect can be attributed to the increased prevalence of low-pay postdoctoral appointments in fields that have softer labor market conditions because of large-scale immigration.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Richard B. Freeman & Daniel Goroff, 2009. "Science and Engineering Careers in the United States: An Analysis of Markets and Employment," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number free09-1, 07.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 11620.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11620
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    1. David Card, 1997. "Immigrant Inflows, Native Outflows, and the Local Labor Market Impacts of Higher Immigration," NBER Working Papers 5927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Rachel M. Friedberg & J. Hunt, 1995. "The Impact of Immigrants on Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth," Working Papers 95-5, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    3. Sharon G. Levin & Grant C. Black & Anne E. Winkler & Paula E. Stephan, 2004. "Differential Employment Patterns for Citizens and Non-Citizens in Science and Engineering in the United States: Minting and Competitive Effects," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(4), pages 456-475.
    4. Robert J. LaLonde & Robert H. Topel, 1991. "Labor Market Adjustments to Increased Immigration," NBER Chapters, in: Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, pages 167-199 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. David Card, 1990. "The impact of the Mariel boatlift on the Miami labor market," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(2), pages 245-257, January.
    6. Borjas, George J., 1999. "The economic analysis of immigration," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1697-1760 Elsevier.
    7. Grossman, Jean Baldwin, 1982. "The Substitutability of Natives and Immigrants in Production," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(4), pages 596-603, November.
    8. George J. Borjas & Richard B. Friedman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1997. "How Much Do Immigration and Trade Affect Labor Market Outcomes?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(1), pages 1-90.
    9. Joseph G. Altonji & David Card, 1991. "The Effects of Immigration on the Labor Market Outcomes of Less-skilled Natives," NBER Chapters, in: Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, pages 201-234 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Richard B. Freeman, 1976. "A cobweb model of the supply and starting salary of new engineers," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 29(2), pages 236-248, January.
    11. George J. Borjas, 2003. "The Labor Demand Curve Is Downward Sloping: Reexamining The Impact Of Immigration On The Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1335-1374, November.
    12. Rachel M. Friedberg, 2001. "The Impact Of Mass Migration On The Israeli Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1373-1408, November.
    13. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2001. "Can Falling Supply Explain The Rising Return To College For Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(2), pages 705-746, May.
    14. John M. Abowd & Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abow91-1, 07.
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