U.S. policymakers have put forth various immigration reform proposals to improve retention of foreign students obtaining advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from American universities. These students are considered particularly desirable because they, like their American counterparts, offer the types of skills critical to building a vibrant “knowledge” economy—whether in the United States or elsewhere. Around the world, many nations have adjusted their immigration policies in recent years to better attract highly-educated foreigners. Yet, some fear that an accelerated inflow of newly minted foreign workers may depress wages and crowd out opportunities for Americans. This preliminary analysis offers some evidence on the possible effects of those proposals by examining the size, characteristics, and geographic distribution of foreign students in the United States. Additional material from author Neil G. Ruiz on “America’s Foreign Students and Immigration Reform” is available here.

Additional research and assistance by Nathan Einstein

Graphics by Christopher Ingraham and Marcia Underwood