WSJ: “H-1B Visas Keep Down U.S. Tech Wages, Study Shows”
Research suggests the influx of skilled foreign workers has historically led to lower wages for U.S. employees; economists caution against making too much of the result
By JOHN SIMONS
March 14, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET
Silicon Valley has long portrayed the U.S. visa program for skilled foreign workers as a win-win, providing much-needed tech talent and fueling innovation and economic growth.
Critics—including President Donald Trump—have said that the H-1B visa program disadvantages American workers by allowing companies to hire cheaper foreign labor for roles that would have gone to U.S. workers.
A new research paper on the effects of the H-1B visa program on workers suggests the influx of skilled foreign workers has historically led to lower wages and employment for American tech workers. Such findings could further inflame debate around immigration of high-skilled workers, but some economists caution against making too much of the result.
Economists from the University of Michigan and the University of California, San Diego, analyzed employment, wages and other factors over an eight-year period ending in 2001. They found that, while the visa program bolstered the U.S. economy and corporate profits, tech-industry wages would have been as much as 5.1% higher in the absence of the H-1B visa program and employment of U.S. workers in the field would have been as much as 10.8% higher in 2001.
But let’s not get carried away with this wild hypothesis that the reason billionaire bosses like H-1B visas is because it means less money in the pockets of American workers and more money in the pockets of the billionaires. I mean, even if that’s what the billionaires were trying to do, how do we know that they succeeded? After all, what do billionaires know about money? They’re not economists, are they?