H-B1 Visas Revisited

B. Linsay Lowell and Johanna Avato of Georgetown University recently did a study “that shows that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers holding an H-1B…earn 5% less than natives employed in similar positions.”

In February, pgl devoted a thread to this topic. One of the posters, Dave from Battlefield, a long-time IT worker, had this to say about Gates’ comment that Microsoft pays foreign workers the same as American workers:

“Except that it is untrue. A flat out lie, in fact. Period, end of paragraph.”

Looks like Dave was right.

Now there is a twist to the study, an important one to understand. Look at the following:

Overall H-1B Visas: -5% of American wage
Don’t Change Jobs: -11% of American wage
Entered as Students: -16% of American wage
Entered as Workers: +14% of American wage (45% of the total)

What’s going on here?

Lowell speculates that foreign workers are paid less because they are often compelled to remain with the same employer to get permanent residency within the 6 years of stay allowed by their visas…One solution, Lowell says, is to grant permanent residency to foreign workers right off the bat.

In short, they are akin to indentured servants, unable to enter fully the marketplace.

The rejoinder is:

“Either these foreign temporary workers are not ‘the best and the brightest,’ or companies are hiring them to hold down starting wages–or both,” says Jack Martin of the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington, D.C.

Now, I am very liberal, as many have, to their horror, recognized. But, when it comes to immigration abuses, I staunch my bleeding heart and say: Enough, already. If we want to encourage our own citizens to enter science, math, and technology, we should do just that: Create conditions where our best and brightest will choose those areas. Simply flooding the job market with foreign students is not the answer. More than once I have heard of gifted scientists throwing up their hands in despair, leaving science to make a needed buck in some bank or financial house.

N.B. The link to the Science article is behind a subscription wall.