ORISE report suggests foreign doctorate recipients routinely take regular employment in the U.S. after completing postdoctoral appointments

Nearly two-thirds of all foreign doctorates are staying in the U.S. 10 years after graduation

Image shows table of Percentage of Temporary Residents Receiving S/E Doctorates in 2006 Who Stayed in the United States 2007 to 2011.

May 5, 2014

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—The number of foreign, science and engineering doctorate students who remain in the United States after graduation has declined slightly over the past five to 10 years, but long–term stay rates indicate that nearly two–thirds of foreign doctorates are continuing to stay in the U.S. These are the latest findings in a series of biennial reports that have been produced by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education (ORISE) and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) since 2000.

The latest report is titled Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities, 2011. It documents a study in which 2011 tax records—the most recent data currently available for the study—were used to estimate the proportion of foreign doctorate recipients from U.S. universities who stayed in the U.S. after graduation for any reason. The Survey of Earned Doctorates, published annually by the NSF, collects information from each graduate school on persons completing doctorates each year. The Social Security Administration then calculates the proportion of those graduates with annual earnings of $5,500 or more, and these tabulations are used with appropriate adjustments (e.g. death) to produce the stay rate.

The 2011 stay rate for all foreign doctorate recipients, including those on permanent visas at graduation, was 68 percent for those graduating five years earlier, and 65 percent for those graduating 10 years earlier.

“Since there’s only a small decline in stay rates in the first five years after graduation, one could assume that foreign doctorate recipients from U.S. universities are finding regular employment in the U.S. even after completing postdoctoral appointments,” explained Michael Finn, ORAU senior economist and author of the ORISE report. “There was a slight decline in the 10–year stay rate; however, nearly two–thirds stayed in the U.S. after 10 years.”

The majority of doctoral graduates staying in the U.S. in 2011 can be attributed to China and India, two countries that accounted for nearly half of science and engineering doctorate awards and 66 percent of all doctorate recipients who are in the U.S. five years after graduation. Other countries with above–average stay rates include Iran, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Thailand, Jordan, Brazil, South Africa, Chile, New Zealand and Indonesia all have the lowest stay rates.

Among science and engineering disciplines, computer science has the highest five–year stay rate at 79 percent, and the second highest is computer/electrical engineering with 77 percent. Agricultural and social sciences were below average, with economics possessing the lowest stay rate of all at 46 percent.

The report can be accessed at http://orise.orau.gov/files/sep/stay-rates-foreign-doctorate-recipients-2011.pdf

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The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) asset that is dedicated to enabling critical scientific, research, and health initiatives of the department and its laboratory system by providing world class expertise in STEM workforce development, scientific and technical reviews, and the evaluation of radiation exposure and environmental contamination. 

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