The Accelerating Decline in America's High-Skilled Workforce: Implications for Immigration Policy

Overview

America rose to economic prominence on the shoulders of the most highly skilled workforce in the world. However, during the last 30 years, skill levels in the US workforce have stagnated: Americans aged 25-34 today do not possess higher skills than do their baby boomer parents. So when American baby boomers retire, they will take as many skills with them as their children will bring into the US workforce. While their parents may have been "the brightest kids on the global trading block" when they entered the ...
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Overview

America rose to economic prominence on the shoulders of the most highly skilled workforce in the world. However, during the last 30 years, skill levels in the US workforce have stagnated: Americans aged 25-34 today do not possess higher skills than do their baby boomer parents. So when American baby boomers retire, they will take as many skills with them as their children will bring into the US workforce. While their parents may have been "the brightest kids on the global trading block" when they entered the workforce, Americans entering the workforce today barely make the global top 10. America is no longer a skill-abundant country compared with an increasing share of the rest of the world.

As a result, in the coming decade, America could face broad and substantial skill shortages and will increasingly need foreign high-skilled workers. Meanwhile, as America debates the merits of immigration reform, other rich nations have rapidly revamped their high-skilled immigration systems, making the United States one of many destinations for high-skilled immigrants. For America to regain its leadership in global talent, it must urgently reform its high-skilled immigration programs, particularly the H-1B temporary work visa and legal permanent resident (green card) programs. US policymakers should in the face of accelerating global economic integration make high-skilled immigration an essential component of their broader foreign economic policies. The aim must be to ensure a continuous inflow of required high-skilled workers to the United States in a manner that enjoys broad domestic political support.

About the Author:
Jacob Funk Kirkegaard has been a research associate atthe Peterson Institute

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Product Details

Table of Contents


Preface     ix
Acknowledgments     xi
Introduction     1
High-Skilled Workers: Stagnating in the United States, Rising Fast in Other Countries?     5
Size and Educational Attainment of Resident US Population     6
Size and Educational Characteristics of Foreign-Born Populations in Rich Countries     15
High-Skilled Workers in Science and Engineering     19
Global High-Skilled Talent: An Increasingly Sought After Resource     26
Current US High-Skilled Immigration System     33
Permanent High-Skilled Immigration     33
Temporary High-Skilled Immigration     39
Welfare Trade-Off, US Software Workers, and Immigration Quotas     55
Welfare Economic Efficiency Versus Equity Trade-Off     55
Software Workers: The Most Affected High-Skilled Americans     58
Matching Employers with Foreign High-Skilled Workers     74
A Reform Package     79
Summary of Findings     79
Implications and Recommendations for Reform     82
Statistical Appendix     91
References     121
Index     127
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