The Unfounded Anxiety About International Students

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The presence of international talent contributes to American economic growth.
The presence of international talent contributes to American economic growth.
Image courtesy of Pexels

International students in the U.S. — whether on a short-term Summer Work Travel exchange program or getting a degree — do not “steal” jobs from Americans. Research confirms that the presence of this international talent in our workforce contributes significantly to American economic growth and business development.

In a recent piece in Forbes, Stuart Anderson highlights the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows international graduates of U.S. colleges and universities to work in the U.S. for 12 months, or 24 if in a STEM field. Critics say this American-educated talent takes jobs away from Americans. In that vein, the Trump administration may be moving to restrict or eliminate OPT.

Anderson, however, highlights the recent work of a University of North Florida economist who analyzed nearly a decade of data and concluded, quite simply:

“There is no evidence that foreign students participating in OPT reduce job opportunities for Americans.”

In fact, the economist notes, OPT is a “small but important” way the U.S. can attract and retain talent that contributes to U.S. economic growth.

A 2017 study of the Summer Work Travel (SWT) exchange program — in which international college students are placed in seasonal, tourist jobs for no more than 4 months — had similar findings:

“There [is] no statistical relationship between the number of [international] SWT participants and youth unemployment rates. That is, there is no evidence indicating that SWT participants compete for local jobs.”

Additionally, the study notes, the presence of these international students allows American seasonal businesses to keep their doors open and operate at full capacity, as well as hire more Americans for full-time, year-round jobs.

Those with anxiety about international students and young professionals in the U.S. workforce need to take note of the reality: these talented young people aren’t simply “doing no harm”; they’re helping to create more and better opportunities for American workers and businesses.

Mark Overmann By

After studying in France and teaching in China, Mark was hooked on cultural exchange. He's worked in the field of international education and exchange for 15 years, and is InterExchange's Vice President of External Affairs.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
The International Coalition for Global Education and Exchange
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation