IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Did OPT Policy Changes Help Steer and Retain Foreign Talent into Stem?


  • Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina

    () (San Diego State University)

  • Furtado, Delia

    () (University of Connecticut)

  • Xu, Huanan

    () (Indiana University)


Academia and the public media have emphasized the link between STEM majors and innovation, as well as the need for STEM graduates in the U.S. economy. Given the proclivity of international students to hold STEM degrees, immigration policy may be used to attract and retain high-skilled STEM workers in the United States. We examine if a 2008 policy extending the Optional Practical Training (OPT) period for STEM graduates affected international students' propensities to major in a STEM field. Using data from the National Survey of College Graduates, we find that, relative to foreign-born U.S. college graduates who arrived on other visas allowing them to work, foreign-born students who first came to the United States on student visas became 18 percent more likely to major in STEM following the OPT policy change. We also find that the OPT policy change increased the likelihood of adding a STEM major among students who had listed a non-STEM major as their first major, as well as the propensity to pursue a master's degree in a STEM field among students whose bachelor's degree was in a non-STEM field.

Suggested Citation

  • Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina & Furtado, Delia & Xu, Huanan, 2018. "Did OPT Policy Changes Help Steer and Retain Foreign Talent into Stem?," IZA Discussion Papers 11548, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11548

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Joseph G. Altonji & Lisa B. Kahn & Jamin D. Speer, 2016. "Cashier or Consultant? Entry Labor Market Conditions, Field of Study, and Career Success," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(S1), pages 361-401.
    2. Kevin Shih, 2016. "Labor Market Openness, H-1b Visa Policy, And The Scale Of International Student Enrollment In The United States," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(1), pages 121-138, January.
    3. Ehrenberg, Ronald G., 2010. "Analyzing the factors that influence persistence rates in STEM field, majors: Introduction to the symposium," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 888-891, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Optional Practical Training; H-1B visas; foreign-born workers; United States;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J68 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Public Policy

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11548. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.