Debunking the Top Ten Arguments Against High-Skilled Immigration

To address misinformation, ITIF refutes 10 myths surrounding high-skilled immigration.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, a vocal group of advocates insists that the United States does not face a shortage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers. The advocates argue incorrectly that high-skilled immigration is not only unnecessary but is actually harmful to American workers. In this report, ITIF refutes 10 of the most common myths asserted to deny the existence of a STEM worker shortage and provides clear evidence that a STEM shortage hurts the American economy and workers.

Myth 1: Data disprove the STEM shortage.

Fact: Despite what advocates may claim, a rigorous examination of available data instead of anecdotal sampling supports the conclusion there is a STEM shortage.

Myth 2: American universities will supply enough computer science graduates to meet demand over the next 10 years.

Fact: By best estimates and current trends, there will be at least two new jobs in computer occupations for every U.S. computer science graduate over the next decade.

Myth 3: STEM students do not use their skills after graduation.

Fact: STEM graduates are more likely than other students to find and hold jobs closely related to their majors.

Myth 4: Previous claims of the STEM shortage never materialized.

Fact: Shortages were mitigated by increased STEM immigration, but the effects of the ongoing shortage are readily apparent in the U.S. economy.

Myth 5: IT wages are flat and low.

Fact: IT wages are 80 percent higher than average U.S. wages and are growing quickly.

Myth 6: More students would major in STEM fields if wages in these fields were higher.

Fact: Wages in IT and engineering are already very high, yet there are fewer computer science majors today than there were 10 years ago. In reality, frictions in the education system limit and delay students from acting on wage incentives.

Myth 7: U.S. companies can remain competitive without high-skilled immigration.

Fact: More manufacturing and traded services will go overseas if companies in the U.S. are denied access to skilled workers.

Myth 8: High-skilled immigrants are substitutes for native workers.

Fact: High-skilled guestworkers complement, not substitute for native workers. They create jobs in their industries by complementing native workers, create jobs in local service industries through the multiplier effect, and create other advanced jobs through high rates of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Myth 9: H-1B visas allow foreign companies to compete in American markets.

Fact: H-1B guest workers allow American companies to continue to operate in America without offshoring. The limits on H-1B visas force many companies to leave, costing Americans an estimated half million jobs each year.

Myth 10: Guestworkers are paid less than native workers.

Fact: H-1B wages are comparable if not slightly higher than prevailing wages in most IT and engineering occupations.