Did Opt Policy Changes Help Steer and Retain Foreign Talent into Stem?

41 Pages Posted: 30 May 2018

See all articles by Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes

Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes

San Diego State University - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Delia Furtado

University of Connecticut - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Huanan Xu

Indiana University South Bend

Abstract

Academia and the public media have emphasized the link between STEM majors and innovation, as well as the need for STEM graduates in the U.S. economy. Given the proclivity of international students to hold STEM degrees, immigration policy may be used to attract and retain high-skilled STEM workers in the United States. We examine if a 2008 policy extending the Optional Practical Training (OPT) period for STEM graduates affected international students' propensities to major in a STEM field.Using data from the National Survey of College Graduates, we find that, relative to foreign-born U.S. college graduates who arrived on other visas allowing them to work, foreign-born students who first came to the United States on student visas became 18 percent more likely to major in STEM following the OPT policy change. We also find that the OPT policy change increased the likelihood of adding a STEM major among students who had listed a non-STEM major as their first major, as well as the propensity to pursue a master's degree in a STEM field among students whose bachelor's degree was in a non-STEM field.

Keywords: Optional Practical Training, H-1B visas, foreign-born workers, United States

JEL Classification: F22, J61, J68

Suggested Citation

Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina and Furtado, Delia and Xu, Huanan, Did Opt Policy Changes Help Steer and Retain Foreign Talent into Stem?. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11548. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3185243

Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes (Contact Author)

San Diego State University - Department of Economics ( email )

5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182
United States
619-594-1663 (Phone)
619-594-5062 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Delia Furtado

University of Connecticut - Department of Economics ( email )

365 Fairfield Way, U-1063
Storrs, CT 06269-1063
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Huanan Xu

Indiana University South Bend ( email )

South Bend, IN 46634
United States

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