Foreign-Born Earn Higher Science Salaries

FOREIGN-BORN professionals are quickly expanding their role in the American economy, particularly in the fields of engineering, medicine, and scientific research.

Highly educated workers from India, China, South Korea, and several other nations have arrived in the United States in growing numbers. There are now more Indian-born physicians in the US, for example, than native-born black doctors.

Brilliant European inventors and scholars, such as Edward Teller from Hungary and the late Albert Einstein from Germany, have long held an important place in US science and engineering. Today, America is attracting top talent from every corner of the globe.

Leon Bouvier, a demographer at the Tulane University School of Public Health, says many of the foreign-born professionals are better trained than their American counterparts - and often earn more as a result.

On average, Asians had the highest average levels of schooling and income among foreign-born professionals.

Dr. Bouvier and David Simcox, a senior fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, used 1990 census data to measure the performance of foreign-born professionals in the US. They found that professionals from abroad earned more than their native-born counterparts in engineering, computer science, math, college teaching, nursing, and medicine.

Physicians born in South Korea earned a median income of $101,289, well above the $81,147 of native-born Americans. Indian-born doctors, at $83,305, and Chinese-born physicians, at $82,020, also outpaced those born in the US.

American-born professionals dominated other fields, however, including the law and elementary and secondary teaching. Foreign-born professionals often show a preference for more scientific pursuits.

Bouvier suggests that with cutbacks in US defense spending and tightening budgets for research, America may want to reassess its policy of attracting large numbers of foreign-born professionals. Flooding the US job market with competitors from abroad ``clearly has major consequences'' for US professionals, he says.

The Bouvier-Simcox study notes a sharp difference between race and ethnicity in the domestic and foreign-born population of professionals.

Among native-born professionals, 89 percent are white, 8 percent are black, 3 percent are Hispanic, and 1 percent are of Asian descent. Among foreign-born professionals, only 41 percent are white, 35 percent are from Asia, 17 percent are Hispanic, and 7 percent are black.

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