Why Are Immigrants and the Children of Immigrants More Likely to Obtain a STEM Degree? the Role of English Proficiency
Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 10:35 AM
Tuttle North (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Policy makers have struggled with the question of how best to increase the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. The key to understanding the role of comparative advantage in skills in determining who goes into STEM fields may be held by U.S.-educated immigrants and the U.S.-born children of immigrants, both of whom are more likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree in STEM than are natives with U.S.-born parents. Using data on recent college graduates from the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Survey of 2008, I find that measures of English proficiency fully explain the gap between U.S.-educated immigrants and natives with U.S.-born parents, as well as about 35 percent of the gap between U.S.-born children of immigrants with two foreign-born parents and natives with U.S.-born parents, conditional on demographics, mathematical ability, and college preparation. Using pooled cross-sectional data on adults from the American Community Survey from 2009 to 2012, I also find that measures of English proficiency fully explain the STEM obtainment gap between U.S.-educated immigrants and U.S.-born adults, conditional on demographics. There is little supporting evidence that academic preparation, mathematical ability, or country effects are creating the intergenerational gaps.