International PhDs who received their Degrees in the USA

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The core debate over Ph.D. recipients from abroad who earned their degrees at U.S. institutions of higher education centers around the questions: who (and how many) stayed in the United States, and who (and how many) returned home? To explore these questions, Deepak, Nerad and Cerny undertook an in-depth study  within  “PhDs – 10 Years Later” survey.

Maresi Nerad and Joseph Cerny were the principal investigators for this study, which was funded by the Mellon Foundation and the National Science Foundation. The national survey examined the career paths of nearly 6,000 Ph.D. recipients who completed their doctoral degrees in the United States between 1982 and 1985 in six fields of study (biochemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, English, mathematics, and political science).

While, overall, 40 percent of the Ph.D.s from abroad returned home to start their post-Ph.D. careers, there was, in fact, considerable variation by field of study, region of origin, and even subregion. Exit rates were the highest for those with Ph.D.s in English and political science, with between one-half to two-thirds leaving the United States. The rates were lowest for technological fields (computer science and electrical engineering), fields in which international Ph.D.s are concentrated, with only around a quarter leaving the United States for their first jobs.

There was extensive variation among those who left, depending on geographic region of origin. Those from Africa, Central and Latin America, Canada, and Australia were the most likely to return home for their first jobs, with almost two-thirds making this choice. In contrast, only around a third of the East Asians and Europeans chose to return home for their first jobs. Finally, South Asians were the least likely to return home, with less than one-tenth leaving the United States.

Gupta, D., Nerad, M., and Cerny, J. (2003).  The Road Home: Exploring the Choice to Stay or Return of International PhDs, International Higher Education, Spring. Download:  International PhDs


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