The Disappearing American Grad Student

This is a fact of life that many of us have known for years, specially in the field of financial engineering. This has been discussed ad nauseam here. Anyone believes it will be any different in the foreseeable future?
In the fall of 2015, about 55 percent of all graduate students in mathematics, computer sciences and engineering were from abroad... The dearth of Americans is even more pronounced in hot STEM fields like computer science, which serve as talent pipelines for the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft: About 64 percent of doctoral candidates and almost 68 percent in master’s programs last year were international students.

For the most part, Americans don’t see the need for an advanced degree when there are so many professional opportunities waiting for them. For some, the price is just too high when they have so much student debt already.

“You can believe that U.S. bachelor’s students, if they’re good, can go get a job at Microsoft or Google with a bachelor’s degree,”

Students from other countries have long seen graduate school as their best path to employment and residency in the United States, and for the industry connections they are not likely to find in their home countries.
The Disappearing American Grad Student
 
As the article points out, the US economy has a lot of demand for technically competent grads. Anybody going into tech or finance who is U.S.-domestic probably finds a decent offer out of undergrad. My guess is it stays this way until the next recession. In a recession, education tends to look more attractive than a bad job offer and it may also be harder for schools to justify having a program filled 80-90% by international students when so many domestic grads are struggling.
 
Many factors contribute to the gap, but a major one is the booming job market in technology. For the most part, Americans don’t see the need for an advanced degree when there are so many professional opportunities waiting for them. For some, the price is just too high when they have so much student debt already.

“You can believe that U.S. bachelor’s students, if they’re good, can go get a job at Microsoft or Google with a bachelor’s degree,” said Edward D. Lazowska, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington.

This whole NYT story rings false for me. Only the best of the best get into companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon -- not the ordinary comp sci or math graduate. It's true that the majority of grad students in STEM are foreign but it's not because of the "booming job market", which I suspect is a figment of the NYT's imagination. If memory serves, around 45% of US engineering Ph.D.s are coming out with no job and no post-doc. Probably the only sector of the economy that isn't shrinking is finance.

This article is three years old but probably still worth a glance as the structural situation hasn't changed:

The Stagnating Job Market for Young Scientists
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
Decline and Fall of the American Programmer is a book written by Edward Yourdon in 1992. It was addressed to American programmers and software organizations of the 1990s, warning that they were about to be driven out of business by programmers in other countries who could produce software more cheaply and with higher quality. Yourdon claimed that American software organizations could only retain their edge by using technologies such as ones he described in the book. (These are listed in the chapter outline below.) Yourdon gave examples of how non-American — specifically Indian and Japanese — companies were making use of these technologies to produce high-quality software.
 
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If the goal of the new tax plan is to shift the tax burden from wealthy, older Americans onto young, already-indebted students pursuing their higher education dreams, it's poised to be a smashing success. But from the perspective of someone who's been a graduate student, gotten their Ph.D., and then been a professor for many years, it looks like a ploy. The ploy appears to be to destroy higher education, to shift the tax burden onto the most educated rather than the most financially successful, and to disincentivize graduate school as a viable option for the majority of people who'd choose to pursue it otherwise.

The GOP Tax Plan Will Destroy Graduate Education
 
I have a theory which is controversial.

Back in the day, blue-collar jobs were held in higher regard and apprenticeships were common for becoming an iron worker, shipbuilder, construction worker, etc. Many people went on to amass great wealth from humble beginnings as manual laborers.

Nowadays, these jobs are seen by many as "low class", and combined with the fact that rising costs of maintaining manufacturing / manual labor jobs in the US, this has led to a decline in the number of people pursuing such professions.

My theory is that this elitism is now beginning to spread against 'geeky' jobs like mathematicians, data scientists, computer scientists, engineers, and quants. People don't want to be doing the dirty work or the difficult number-crunching - they want to be the MBA or management consultant or CEO giving orders to their little quant guys who run around actually doing the work.

While there has indeed been an explosion in things like data science and computer science, there has been a simultaneous explosion in "soft" degrees. The MBA is the foremost example of this but there are tons of others, like "business analytics" or "masters in management". Often these can be had online as well as on-campus.

Note also that in the traditional 'highly respected' degrees, such as the MD and JD and PhD (non-STEM), the effect pointed to in the article has not been nearly as relevant.

I've been in the country for about 10 years now. Every year that goes by it seems I meet people who cannot seem to explain in a sentence or two what their job actually is and how it helps the business make money or save costs. "Fluffy job" comes to mind. For every 1 "quant/programmer/scientist" it seems I meet 2 or 3 "analytics consultant", "strategy manager", or similar.
 
Back in the day, blue-collar jobs were held in higher regard and apprenticeships were common for becoming an iron worker, shipbuilder, construction worker, etc. Many people went on to amass great wealth from humble beginnings as manual laborers.

Nowadays, these jobs are seen by many as "low class", and combined with the fact that rising costs of maintaining manufacturing / manual labor jobs in the US, this has led to a decline in the number of people pursuing such professions.

Not "great wealth" except for a select few but a comfortable life for unionized blue-collar workers, mostly white. The rest of the workforce also benefited, but to a lesser extent. A single paycheck was enough to maintain a family, buy a small house, buy and operate a car. Those jobs have either gone, or been de-unionized and suffered losses in pay and working conditions. That golden era, lasting from roughly 1945 to the early '80s, is what Trump alludes to when he talks about "Make America Great Again." The "American dream" was not that smartness and hard work could lead to success -- since many countries have some sort of meritocracy in place -- but that dim-wittedness and hard work could lead to success: intellectual mediocrity was no serious handicap to material success. And in the golden era it was possible. Not today.

My theory is that this elitism is now beginning to spread against 'geeky' jobs like mathematicians, data scientists, computer scientists, engineers, and quants. People don't want to be doing the dirty work or the difficult number-crunching - they want to be the MBA or management consultant or CEO giving orders to their little quant guys who run around actually doing the work.

They're not equipped to do so. US public schooling largely cripples them for life and in addition, even under the best of circumstances, maybe only 1% or 2% of the population has the innate ability for the hard detailed coding and math work. Yet many aspire towards a comfortable middle-class life, increasingly elusive. Hence the siren song of the soft degrees.

I've been in the country for about 10 years now. Every year that goes by it seems I meet people who cannot seem to explain in a sentence or two what their job actually is and how it helps the business make money or save costs. "Fluffy job" comes to mind. For every 1 "quant/programmer/scientist" it seems I meet 2 or 3 "analytics consultant", "strategy manager", or similar.

Partly yes, they're "fluffy jobs" (or as Graeber calls them, "bullshit jobs"). Partly it's because Americans can't communicate lucidly, precisely, and succinctly and compensate by talking garrulously and meaninglessly.
 
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