Much appreciation to an alert reader for pointing me to DHS’ Final regulations on OPT. Final, that is, subject to the pending lawsuit, but this is not my subject in this post. Instead, I wish to point out an outrageous mischaracterization DHS makes of my EPI research paper in that document, exemplifying the continuing grossly irresponsible behavior of that agency.
DHS says (referring to me as “EPI,” emphasis added),
With respect to the studies by Dr. Hunt, DHS notes that the NPRM cited those studies in support of the general proposition that STEM workers “are fundamental inputs in scientific innovation and technological adoption, critical drivers of productivity growth in the United States.” 80 FR 63383. The EPI study did not question this proposition. Rather, the EPI study examined a narrow band of STEM fields to show that “immigrant workers, especially those who first came to the United States as international students, are in general of no higher talent than the Americans, as measured by salary, patent filings, dissertation awards, and quality of academic program.” (61) Specifically, the EPI finding is focused on whether foreign-born students who earned computer science and electrical engineering degrees in the United States file patent applications at higher levels than U.S.-born students earning the same degrees. For electrical engineering, the analysis showed that patenting activity of U.S. and foreign-born students was about the same, while for computer science the analysis showed that foreign-born computer science students apply for somewhat fewer patents than do their American peers.
The EPI paper, however, acknowledges that the Hunt studies cited in the NPRM cast a much broader net, encompassing a myriad of science and engineering fields. The Hunt papers considered the impact of foreign-born workers employed in the United States in myriad visa classifications and fields of study, and was not focused solely on F-1 students or STEM OPT students (nor to just Computer Science and Electrical Engineering research activity). As explained in the Hunt papers, there is support for the proposition that foreign-born scientists and engineers achieve higher rates of U.S. patent filings. The Department continues to believe such patent rates support the conclusion that the STEM OPT extension is in the national interest.
This is way, WAY off the mark, in numerous aspects.
First of all, Professor Hunt published two papers, DHS references 28 and 29. (The latter originally was first published as an NBER working paper, then later in the Journal of Labor Economics, JOLE.) Reference 28 boils down to saying that immigrants have a lot of patents, because they tend to be in STEM fields; American bank managers, truck drivers, lawyers, doctors etc. generally don’t file patent applications. But in Hunt’s second paper, Reference 29, she looked at PER-CAPITA rates; relative to Americans in a given profession, do immigrants file fewer patent applications or more of them? Her answer was that the immigrants are LESS likely to file for patents than natives. In my EPI paper, I quote Hunt from her NBER paper:
After I control for field of study…and education…both main work visa groups and student/trainee visa holders have statistically significantly lower patenting probabilities than natives.
Academic politics being what they are — especially concerning research on immigration, where reviewers often have polarized views on this matter — JOLE told Hunt to remove H-1Bs from her paper, so the above passage was not in the final JOLE version. Nevertheless, even with that omission, she still found that the immigrants filed no more patents per capita than did the Americans.
So, DHS is misrepresenting not only me but also Hunt.
It gets worse:
Recall from above that DHS says
Rather, the EPI study examined a narrow band of STEM fields to show that “immigrant workers, especially those who first came to the United States as international students, are in general of no higher talent than the Americans, as measured by salary, patent filings, dissertation awards, and quality of academic program…For electrical engineering, the analysis showed that patenting activity of U.S. and foreign-born students was about the same, while for computer science the analysis showed that foreign-born computer science students apply for somewhat fewer patents than do their American peers.”
I showed that and much more. Compared to the natives, the former foreign CS students not only filed fewer patent applications, but also had lower salaries (even after getting a green card and becoming free agents), and among those earning a doctorate, earned their degrees at lower-ranking universities. Both EE and CS immigrants were less likely to work in R&D, directly contrary to DHS’ claim of “innovation.”
And as to DHS’s saying that my study only covered the “narrow band” of computer science and electrical engineering: First of all, that’s hardly narrow! Computer occupations alone account for 50% of the H-1Bs. But even more important, DHS itself notes that Hunt’s paper covered the gamut of fields, and as I noted above, she found that “work visa groups and student/trainee visa holders have statistically significantly lower patenting probabilities than natives.” Even if DHS wants to dismiss Hunt’s NBER version of the paper, her final JOLE version (which excluded the H-1Bs) found that, again as noted above, the immigrants filed no more patents per capita than did the Americans.
In other words, DHS’ statement, “As explained in the Hunt papers, there is support for the proposition that foreign-born scientists and engineers achieve higher rates of U.S. patent filings,” is, if you will, patently false.
Furthermore, my paper also quoted the “wide band” statement of Bound et al:
In physics, biochemistry, and chemistry much of the expansion [from the mid-1980s to mid-90s] in doctorate receipt to foreign students occurs at unranked programs or those ranked outside the top 50; the growth in foreign students in engineering is distributed more evenly among programs. Among students from China, Taiwan, and South Korea growth has been particularly concentrated outside the most highly ranked institutions.
This of course jibed with my similar finding that the foreign CS students earn their degrees at lower-ranked schools. But no mention of my Bound citation by DHS in their “analysis” of my paper.
Note by the way DHS’ repeated use of the term “foreign-born” rather than simply “foreign.” As I have pointed out, this is official language from the industry lobbyists’ literature. Granted, a minor point, but one that exemplifies DHS’ cozy relationship with the lobbyists.
So, was that relationship so cozy that the DHS deliberately mischaracterized my EPI paper? Or are the DHS people such “true believers” in the glories of foreign work programs that they simply couldn’t see what was in plain sight in my paper? Maybe they simply lack critical reasoning skills? Whatever the cause is, this DHS document (I’ll discuss other parts of it in future posts), represents a gross failure in responsibility of a key government agency.