Will Immigrints Keep Doing Our Science

I commented on Philip Greenspun article about women in science twice already. It seems to be a very rich topic for discussion. A new point struck me today. Greenspun argued that immigrints are the ideal candidates for the intellectually demanding but insecure and not well paid jobs that our current scientific research organization provides.

Imagine that you are a smart, but impoverished, young person in China. Your high IQ and hard work got you into one of the best undergraduate programs in China. The $1800 per month graduate stipend at University of Nebraska or University of Wisconsin will afford you a much higher standard of living than any job you could hope for in China. The desperate need for graduate student labor and lack of Americans who are interested in PhD programs in science and engineering means that you'll have no trouble getting a visa. When you finish your degree, a small amount of paperwork will suffice to ensure your continued place in the legal American work force. Science may be one of the lowest paid fields for high IQ people in the U.S., but it pays a lot better than most jobs in China or India.

Well today the Washington Post reports that applications from outside the US to US graduate schools are going down.

International applications are still down 23 percent from 2003, she said, at a time when foreign students receive most of the degrees in several fields. Twenty-five years ago, U.S. students made up about 78 percent of students receiving science and engineering graduate degrees. Today, it is about half. And foreign students who do come to study at U.S. universities no longer remain: Twenty-five years ago, 70 to 80 percent of foreign students stayed in the United States after receiving their graduate degrees, but now only 50 percent do.

I think Greenspun's analysis of the state of scientific workforce is quite accurate, but his relatively blase attitude about it is not acceptable.

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