Immigrant kids in U.S. deliberately build STEM skills


Similar pattern in Canada (chart above looks at Canadian-born visible minority university and college graduates compared to Not VisMin):

U.S. immigrant children study more math and science in high school and college, which leads to their greater presence in STEM careers, according to new findings from scholars at Duke University and Stanford University.

“Most studies on the assimilation of immigrants focus on the language disadvantage of non-English-speaking immigrants,” said Marcos Rangel, assistant professor at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. “We focus instead on the comparative strength certain immigrant children develop in numerical subjects, and how that leads to majoring in STEM subjects in college.”

About 20 percent of U.S.-born college students major in STEM subjects. Yet those numbers are much higher among immigrants — particularly among who arrive the U.S. after age 10, and who come from countries whose native languages are dissimilar to English, Rangel said. Within that group, 36 percent major in STEM subjects.

“Some children who immigrate to the U.S., particularly older children from a country where the main language is very dissimilar to English, quite rationally decide to build on skills they are relatively more comfortable with, such as math and science,” said Rangel.

Those older immigrant children take more math and science courses in high school, the authors found. Immigrant children arriving after age 10 earn approximately 20 percent more credits in math-intensive courses than they do in English-intensive courses.

This focus continues in college, where immigrant children are more likely to pursue science, technology, engineering and math majors. Those majors, in turn, lead to careers in STEM fields. Previous research has shown that immigrants are more highly represented in many STEM careers.

“Meaningful differences in skill accumulation … shape the consequent contributions of childhood immigrants to the educated labor force,” the authors write.

Source: Immigrant kids in U.S. deliberately build STEM skills

AI and the Automation of Jobs Disproportionately Affect Women, World Economic Forum Warns

Interesting analysis of gender and AI:

Women are disproportionately affected by the automation of jobs and development of artificial intelligence, which could widen the gender gap if more women are not encouraged to enter the fields of science, technology and engineering, the World Economic Forum warned on Monday.

Despite statistics showing that the economic opportunity gap between men and women narrowed slightly in 2018, the report from the World Economic Forum finds there are proportionally fewer women than men joining the workforce, largely due to the growth of automation and artificial intelligence.

According to the findings, the automation of certain jobs has impacted many roles traditionally held by women. Women also continue to be underrepresented in industries that utilize science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills. This affects their presence in the booming field of AI. Currently, women make up 22% of AI professionals, a gender gap three times larger than other industries.

“This year’s analysis also warns about the possible emergence of new gender gaps in advanced technologies, such as the risks associated with emerging gender gaps in Artificial Intelligence-related skills,” the report’s authors write. “In an era when human skills are increasingly important and complementary to technology, the world cannot afford to deprive itself of women’s talent in sectors in which talent is already scarce.”

The World Economic Forum report ranked the the United States 51st worldwide for gender equality — above average, but below many other developed countries, as well as less-developed nations like Nicaragua, Rwanda and the Philippines. Women in the U.S. had better economic opportunities than those in Austria, Italy, South Korea and Japan, according to the World Economic Forum.

The U.S. fell two spots from its ranking 2017. While the gender gap improved slightly in economic opportunity and participation, the gap between men and women regarding access to education and political empowerment reversed, in part due to a decline in gender equality in top government positions.

The World Economic Forum, which is known for its annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, measured the gender gap around the world across four factors – political empowerment, economic opportunity, educational attainment and health and survival – to find that the gap has closed 68%, a slight improvement from 2017, which marked the first year since 2006 that the gender gap widened.

As the gender gap stands now, it will take about 108 years to close completely and 202 years to achieve total parity in the workplace.

Source: AI and the Automation of Jobs Disproportionately Affect Women, World Economic Forum Warns

Why Immigrants Do Better At Science And Math : NPR

Intuitively makes sense but nice to have more evidence that it is so:

Seventeen-year-old Indrani Das just won the top high school science prize in the country. Das, who lives in Oradell, N.J., took home $250,000 from the former Intel Science Talent Search, now the Regeneron Science Talent Search, for her study of brain injuries and neuron damage. In her spare time, she’s already working with patients as a certified EMT.

As the Times of India pointed out, Das was one of five Indian Americans among the competition’s top ten finishers. In last year’s contest, according to one study, more than 80 percent of finalists were the children of immigrants.

What is it that spurs so many recent arrivals to the United States to excel in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM disciplines? Some invoke cultural stereotypes, like that of the “Tiger Mother,” for an explanation.

Not Marcos Rangel. For a new study published in the journal Demography, Rangel, an economist at Duke University, and his co-author, Marigee Bacolod of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, looked at U.S. Census data for young adults who arrived in the United States before age 18. The data covers in detail the relative skills required for different occupations, such as physical strength, communication skills, social skills, math and reasoning. For those who went to college, they were also able to see what major they chose.

“If it were just as easy for me to write with my left hand as with my right, I would be using both. But no, I specialize,” Rangel says. In the same way, academically motivated students who have to play catch-up in English class may prefer to zoom ahead in the universal language of mathematics.

(By the way, Das, not a late arrival, is a former spelling bee champion as well as a science whiz.)

Rangel, who came here from Brazil as a young father, has seen this dynamic play out in his own family. “The younger one, who went to Pre-K in English, is different from my kid who came at five already reading Portuguese,” he says. The older one is more inclined toward math.

To be clear, Rangel doesn’t discount the notion that cultural values may also influence immigrants’ career choices. But he is out to tell a more nuanced story — “a movie, not just a photograph,” he says — of how people develop different skills and talents.

Source: Why Immigrants Do Better At Science And Math : NPR Ed : NPR

Sex differences in academia: University challenge | The Economist

Interesting analysis of the some of the unconscious beliefs and habits that may undermine efforts to increase diversity within STEM disciplines:

All this raises interesting and awkward questions. It may be unpalatable to some, but the idea that males and females have evolved cognitive differences over the course of many millions of years, because of the different interests of the sexes, is plausible. That people of different races have evolved such differences is far less likely, given the youth of Homo sapiens as a species. Prejudice thus seems a more plausible explanation for what Dr Leslie and Dr Cimpian have observed. But prejudice can work in subtle ways.

It could indeed be that recruiters from disciplines which think innate talent important are prejudiced about who they select for their PhD programmes. It could instead, though, be that women and black people themselves, through exposure to a culture that constantly tells them (which research suggests it does) that they do not have an aptitude for things like maths and physics, have come to believe this is true.

If that is the case (and Dr Leslie and Dr Cimpian suspect it is), it suggests that a cultural shift in schools and universities, playing down talent and emphasising hard work, might serve to broaden the intake of currently male-dominated and black-deficient fields, to the benefit of all.

Sex differences in academia: University challenge | The Economist.