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States after completing their studies, make substantial contributions to our society by creating and applying new knowledge.

The total number of S&E graduate students in US institutions has grown consistently over the last several decades, with an acceleration during the 1990s.3 These increases have taken place despite evidence that US graduate schools give preference to domestic applicants.4 Since the 1970s, the strongest inflow of graduate students has been from Asian countries. From 1985 to 2001, students from China, Taiwan, India, and South Korea earned more than half of the 148,000 US science and engineering doctoral degrees awarded to foreign students, four times the number awarded to students from Europe.

The percentage of international students in US graduate schools has risen from 23.4% in 1982 to 34.5% in 2002 (see Figure IS-1). In 2002, international students received 19.5% of all doctorates awarded in the social and behavioral sciences, 18.0% in the life sciences, 35.4% in the physical sciences, and 58.7% in engineering.5 For doctorate-granting institutions, total enrollment of international S&E graduate students increased dramatically between 2000 and 2002. In 2002, 55.5% of international S&E graduate students were enrolled at Research I (R1) universities; R1s also enroll the highest proportion (26.0%) of international students (see Figure IS-2). Today, the total number of foreign citizens studying in US universities (including undergraduates) has passed the half-million mark.

A recent study further delineates the changing demographics of graduate students in US institutions.6 In 1966, US-born males accounted for 71% of S&E PhD graduates, and 6% were awarded to US-born females; 23% of doctorate recipients were foreign-born. In 2000, 36% of doctorate recipients were US-born males, 25% US-born females, and 39% foreign-born. Among postdoctoral scholars, the participation rate of temporary residents has increased from 37.4% in 1982 to 58.8% in 2002 (see Figure IS-3). Similarly, the share of foreign-born faculty who earned their doctoral degrees at US universities has increased from 11.7% in 1973 to 20.4% in




G. Attiyeh and R. Attiyeh. “Testing for Bias in Graduate School Admissions.” Journal of Human Resources 32(1997):524-548.


National Science Foundation. Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering 2002. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2004. Life sciences include biological sciences, agricultural sciences, and health fields; social sciences include psychology; and physical sciences include physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, and earth sciences.


R. B. Freeman, E. Jin, and C.-Y. Shen. Where Do New US-Trained Science-Engineering PhDs Come From? Working Paper Number 10544. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economics Research, 2004.

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