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

Author

Listed:
  • Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina

    () (San Diego State University)

  • Furtado, Delia

    () (University of Connecticut)

  • Xu, Huanan

    () (Indiana University)

Abstract

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
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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

    Keywords

    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

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