Foreign Science and Engineering Doctoral Attainment at American Universities




Hamilton, Robert V.

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This dissertation analyzes the nearly 100,000 foreign students who attained science and engineering (S&E) doctorates in the five fields of physical sciences, life sciences, engineering, mathematics and computer sciences, and social and behavioral sciences at American universities from 1994 to 2005. Two models are presented. In the first model controlling for population, multivariate regression results testing for whether foreign students from higher or lower income nations (181 nations) tended to attain S&E doctorates showed that certain S&E fields tended to be represented by students from higher income nations early in the time period (e.g. 1994 to 1999) but the national income variable explaining foreign S&E doctoral attainment was not statistically significant in four of the fields after the year 2000. Four nations, China, India, South Korea and Taiwan stand out due to their large S&E doctoral student presence at American universities, but virtually all growth in foreign doctoral attainment in four of the S&E fields from 1994 to 2005 came from Chinese students, and this growth was most pronounced after the year 2001. In short, whereas the foreign student populations from South Korea and Taiwan were the outliers in 1994 and as such skewed testing results, they had largely been displaced in 2005 by the increased presence of Chinese students. From the US public policy perspective, to the extent that growth in foreign S&E doctoral attainment is an issue to include its related costs and benefits, the appropriate policy focus should shift more specifically towards the growth in Chinese S&E doctoral attainment. Further, with the exception of China and India, foreign doctoral students from the lowest income nations of the world in all five S&E fields were greatly under represented on American campuses from 1994 to 2005. Testing results from the second model complement the findings in the first model. Whereas the first model tested for the effects of national income on foreign S&E doctoral attainment, the second model tested for changes in foreign S&E doctoral attainment over the time period 1994 to 2005. Specifically, testing results for the second model indicated that changes in S&E doctoral attainment by students from the lower income nations tended to more closely track changes in education-related R&D funding compared to students from higher income nations. These results suggest that to the extent the US government desires to increase foreign doctoral attainment in specific S&E fields, students from lower income nations might have a greater tendency to “chase” education-related R&D dollars in the targeted S&E fields. Finally, testing results for both models indicate that there was variation between the five S&E fields, and that highly-skilled migration patterns in certain S&E fields changed relatively quickly during the time period 1994 to 2005. These results suggest that foreign S&E doctoral attainment should be disaggregated both temporally and by S&E population in order to adequately measure and understand this phenomenon.



Migration, Education, Foreign, Science, Engineering