THE ATLANTIC Agrees (With Beautiful Charts): STEM Shortage Mythical
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 Engineering Phds

The Atlantic

H/T Mangan’s for alerting me to The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts by Jordan Weissman The Atlantic Feb 20 2013. Mangan’s accurately says

Executive summary: if you have a PhD in just about anything, go ahead and commit seppuku now

This article involves a stellar use of charts and is well worth looking at. The situation is dismal. Weissman observes

The pattern reaching back to 2001 is clear — fewer jobs, more unemployment, and more post-doc work — especially in the sciences. A post doc essentially translates into toiling as a low-paid lab hand (emphasis on low-paid as shown below. Once it was just a one or two year rite of passage where budding scientists honed their research skills. Now it can stretch on for half a decade.

Mangans’s zeroes in

The chart in the article ( the second)  shows that the average post-doc makes around 40 grand a year. So a, say, Chinese PhD will gladly accept such a position, while the American will see this and understand (hopefully) that ten years of higher education just aren't worth it.

(To a foreigner of course, any possibility of a permanent visa completely alters the meaning of "40 grand”.)

Unsurprisingly for an MSM publication Weissman made no mention of the effect of immigration. But he subsequently did partially address it in The Ph.D. Bust, Pt. II: How Bad Is the Job Market For Young American-Born Scientists? The Atlantic Feb 22 2013.

On Wednesday, I argued that the job market for new science Ph.D.'s has been deteriorating for about a decade…the chilly hiring environment seems to undercut the idea the U.S. is suffering from an overall shortage of scientists.

Unfortunately, I left a big question unanswered. Many of today's science Ph.D.'s aren't Americans. In 2011, 51.9 percent of engineering doctorates, 26.2 percent of life sciences doctorates, and 39.6 percent of physical sciences doctorates were awarded to foreign students living in the United States on temporary visas. Several readers asked: Is the job market truly terrible for everybody, or do Americans have an easier time of it?

Weissman looks into this and concludes that while the situation of native-born Ph.D’s is marginally less terrible, it is still very bad:

While American-born Ph.D.'s seem to have it better than immigrants when it comes to their job prospects, they don't necessarily have it good. If companies were desperate to snap up competent scientists, these graphs would all look vastly different.

He does not address the income-depressing effect of having so many foreign PhDs in America.

As usual on this issue, there are many incisive comments:

•    mirnad: I think the right question to ask is why do so many foreign PhDs have jobs when there are so many unemployed Americans with comparable education.

There is 36% unemployment among American life scientists and the government is still issuing H1 visas to foreigners because of some imaginary skills shortage.

This is outrageous and nothing more than an effort on the part of politically powerful drug companies to hire cheap foreign labor, who in turn become nothing more than indentured servants

Of course this fraud has been a longstanding theme, most recently in “STEM Shortage” Shouters Suppress Salient Statistics". But it is encouraging to see yet another example of the facts deployed in a non-taboo publication.

PHD income

The Atlantic

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