Doctor Norm Matloff: If There’s A STEM Shortage, Why Are Computer Science Graduates Wages DOWN?

Doctor Norm Matloff  writes to his email list:

When discussing H-1B-related analysis with people who hated their statistics course in college–almost all members of Congress, probably most journalists, and probably most engineers and programmers–nothing beats couching things in terms of wages. People`s eyes may glaze over when one talks of regression models, but everyone understands that if wages are flat, there ain`t no shortage.

Well, then, everyone will get this one: According to the latest NACE survey, starting salaries for new Computer Science grads are not just flat, they are DOWN by 2.5%. See “Salary Survey: Average Starting Salary for Class of 2013 Grads Increases 2.4 Percent.”

The wages for Computer Engineering majors are also down, though the above summary didn`t say how much.

Starting salaries for new engineering majors in general were up a bit, 2.3%. An exception was for Bioengineering, still an infant field yet to stabilize, at 10.1%. But hey, Sociology majors beat that, at 10.8%.

As you know, though, for relevance to the H-1B issue, the computer field is dominant. Though the figures vary from year to year, about 50% of all H-1Bs are in that field, with the next largest one, electrical engineering, being far smaller, at about 5%. It has consistently been the case that the loudest corporate voices for expanding the H-1B program have been from the computer field, notably Microsoft.

Wages for new college grads in computer science are of special interest. As I`ve pointed out, by many employers` own public admission, they are focusing on hiring new or recent grads, shunning older applicants. So, starting salaries should be going up. The fact that they are actually DOWN slightly highlights the fact that, in spite of the industry lobbyists` claims, hiring in the computer field is a buyer`s market.

In other words, NO SHORTAGE.Doctor Norm Matloff: If There’s A STEM Shortage, Why Are Computer Science Graduates Wages DOWN?

Speaking of wage analyses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reacted sharply to the IEEE Spectrum article I reported on Thursday.

 Their response, “U.S. Immigration Reform and STEM Jobs…By The Numbers,” [PDF] also brings up wages. I don`t know whether they are counting on innumeracy in the press and Congress, or the author of the piece is him/herself is innumerate, but the Chambers` numbers actually prove my point. For example, they say from 1999 to 2011, we had inflation of 36% but wages for computer and mathematical occupations grew by 44%. That as increase in real wages of a minuscule 0.5% per year! That`s not a shortage, folks.

The Chamber`s report also brings up the fact that not enough American students go to grad school, as the master`s and PhD levels. I`ve explained many times that H-1B is the CAUSE of this, not the solution: The large influx of foreign workers has held down salary growth at those levels, with the result that financially speaking, it`s best for American tech students to stop their education after getting their bachelor`s degrees. This was forecast by a National Science Foundation report years ago, and the forecast turned out to be quite accurate.

The Chamber also cunningly chooses its wording. They keep referring to “native-born” workers, when the term doesn`t appear in the Spectrum piece (the Chamber hopes the term will read “nativist,” I guess), and they refer to IEEE as a union, which of course is far from the truth. If IEEE-USA were a union, it might solicit its members` views on H-1B, instead of “representing” them to Congress regarding policies to the members` detriment.


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