On Wednesday, I argued that the job market for new science Ph.D.'s has been deteriorating for about a decade. In brief, we keep graduating more doctoral students in subjects like engineering, biology, computer science, and mathematics, and progressively fewer of them seem to be finding work by the time they have a diploma. The overwhelming majority these bright minds probably land good jobs eventually, but the chilly hiring environment seems to undercut the idea the U.S. is suffering from an overall shortage of scientists.
Unfortunately, I left a big question unanswered. Many of today's science Ph.D.'s aren't Americans. In 2011, 51.9 percent of engineering doctorates, 26.2 percent of life sciences doctorates, and 39.6 percent of physical sciences doctorates were awarded to foreign students living in the United States on temporary visas. Thanks to their immigration status, these graduates face obstacles that an aerospace engineer born in Iowa might not.
Several readers asked: Is the job market truly terrible for everybody, or do Americans have an easier time of it? Indeed, it appears we do. But don't go and start prepping for the GRE yet. These numbers still aren't pretty.
Sadly, The National Science Foundation's publicly available figures don't directly compare American and Immigrant Ph.D.'s. in individual fields, but I've tried to reverse-engineer some reasonable estimates.* Because of the data's limitations, I've had to break the graphs into only two categories: foreign Ph.D.'s living in the U.S. on temporary visas and a grab-bag group I refer to as the Americans+, which includes grads who were born in the United States, have a green card, or didn't identify their citizenship status. Ultimately, you should think of these figures as rough guides, not statistical gospel.