The Washington Post
August 1, 2012
The sleek conference room at Microsoft’s Washington, D.C., office was packed Wednesday morning with industry and policy leaders. The conversation topic: The skilled worker pipeline in the U.S., particularly the cap on H-1B visas. Talk ranged from policy prescriptions to where the demand for H-1B visa workers is most concentrated. And the discussion was predictably weighted with empirical evidence, to the point where talk of the anecdote-as-argument against raising visa caps elicited light laughter.
But beneath the data, policy, corporate interests and politics rest central, non-empirical questions: Why aren’t American students interested in science, technology, math and engineering? And when they are, why do they pursue employment in non STEM fields — a phenomenon known as “diversion.” What role does ballooning student loan debt play? And, of course, what of the perception among those in the general public that a job given to an H-1B visa recipient from overseas would take a job away from an otherwise qualified American or depress wages?