A new working paper finds that economic conditions are a critical factor in determining whether foreign-born science and engineering Ph.D. students plan to remain in the United States after they graduate: students are most likely to stay if the U.S. has experienced strong gross domestic product growth in recent years or their home country has had weak growth. Students who come from countries that have recently democratized or have higher average income levels are less likely to remain in the U.S.
The study, based on an analysis of the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates data from 1960 to 2008, also found that foreign students who plan to stay in the U.S. have higher levels of academic ability, as determined by the educational attainment of their parents and their own success in earning fellowships and other sources of graduate funding. (An exception is those students who receive funding contingent upon their return to their home country; not surprisingly, these students are less likely to intend to stay in the U.S.)
Foreign-born students made up 56 percent of all science and engineering Ph.D. recipients in the U.S. in 2007. The working paper is by Jeffrey Grogger and Gordon H. Hanson, of the Universities of Chicago and California at San Diego, respectively, and is available on the National Bureau of Economic Research website for $5.