42% of California’s STEM Workforce Hails From Outside the U.S.

Software engineering has highest share of foreign-born workers

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A study by the American Immigration Council shows dramatic increase in foreign-born percentage of STEM workers
Photo: iStockphoto

The proportion of U.S. STEM jobs held by people born outside of the country has grown dramatically since 1990, and California and New Jersey are leading the trend. So says a study by the American Immigration Council. The organization looked at data from 2015 and earlier, excluding STEM careers in higher education.

The council calls its STEM definition narrow; it includes computer and mathematics, engineering and surveying, physical and life sciences, and managerial careers, and it excludes health care and social sciences. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • STEM workers as a share of the total U.S. workforce increased from 3.4 percent in 1990 to 5 percent in 2015
  • The foreign-born share of the total U.S. STEM workforce increased from 11.9 percent in 1990 to 24.3 percent in 2015.
  • The computer and math fields showed the highest increase in the proportion of foreign born workers, from 11.9 percent in 1990 to 26.1 percent in 2015.
  • U.S. software engineering fields, in particular, have a high representation of foreign born workers: 39.2 percent of the workforce. Foreign-born electrical engineers make up 28.4 percent of that workforce.
  • Among the states, California and New Jersey, at 42.4 percent and 43.8 percent respectively, have the largest foreign-born representation in their STEM workforces. Wyoming has the lowest at 4 percent.

The report also looked at other, independent studies of STEM workers, and noted that data shows that 25 percent of high tech companies founded between 1995 and 2005 have at least one immigrant founder and that foreign-born people living in the United States are more likely than native-born people to obtain a patent.

The full report is available here.

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