Finishing Degrees and Finding Jobs: U.S. Higher Education and the Flow of Foreign IT Workers

John Bound, Murat Demirci, Gaurav Khanna, and Sarah Turner

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Chapter in forthcoming NBER book Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 15, William R. Kerr, Josh Lerner and Scott Stern, editors
Conference held April 8, 2014
Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press
in NBER Book Series Innovation Policy and the Economy

The rising importance of Information Technology (IT) occupations in the U.S. economy has been accompanied by an expansion in the representation of high-skill foreign-born IT workers. To illustrate, the share of foreign born in IT occupations increased from about 15.5% to about 31.5% between 1993 and 2010, with this increased representation particularly marked among those younger than 45. This analysis focuses on understanding the role that U.S. higher education and immigration policy play in this transformation. A degree from a U.S. college/university is an important pathway to participation in the U.S. IT labor market, and the foreign-born who obtain U.S. degree credentials are particularly likely to remain in the U.S. Many workers from abroad, including countries like India and China where wages in IT fields lag those in the U.S., receive a substantial return to finding employment in the U.S., even as temporary work visa policies may limit their entry. Limits on temporary work visas, which are particularly binding for those educated abroad, likely increase the attractiveness of degree attainment from U.S. colleges and universities as a pathway to explore opportunities in the U.S labor market in IT.

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This paper was revised on June 3, 2014

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This chapter first appeared as NBER working paper w20505, Finishing Degrees and Finding Jobs: U.S. Higher Education and the Flow of Foreign IT Workers, John Bound, Murat Demirci, Gaurav Khanna, Sarah Turner
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