STEM Workers, H-1B Visas, and Productivity in US Cities
Giovanni Peri, Kevin Shih, and Chad Sparber, 2015.
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers are fundamental inputs for innovation, the main driver of productivity growth. We identify the long-run effect of STEM employment growth on outcomes for native workers across 219 US cities from 1990 to 2010. We use the 1980 distribution of foreign-born STEM workers and variation in the H-1B visa program to identify supply-driven STEM increases across cities. Increases in STEM workers are associated with significant wage gains for college-educated natives. Gains for non-college-educated natives are smaller but still significant. Our results imply that foreign STEM increased total factor productivity growth in US cities.