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The "Secret Sauce" From Abroad
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August 28, 2010, 11:38 PM
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Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, seems to think that there is a quiet crisis in the U.S. because of a shortage of talent. She is ecstatic that our nation is able to tap the "secret sauce" of talent from abroad:
Now fortunately for us, we’ve been able to attract really exquisite talent from abroad and so that’s been kind of the secret sauce that we’ve always been able to attract talent from abroad. But you know what? Other countries, now, they’re emulating our model. They are creating massive research infrastructure, building up their universities. Creating new enterprises with a lot of government support. And they are beginning to attract many of these educated people in the sciences and engineering back home. But there’s a global race for talent, so they’re also being attracted to places that may not be back home; but they’re not necessarily countries that are where we would think. And so that means they aren’t necessarily staying here. Our "Quiet Crisis" in Science and Technology, Shirley Ann Jackson, June 14, 2010
Shirley Ann Jackson is touted as a role model for women in science, and is credited for being the first African-American woman to earn a PhD in theoretical physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973.

She doesn`t seem to care that most H-1Bs are young males and definitely not of African heritage.

So, what did Jackson`s statement say about the lack of talent in the U.S., and about Americans in general? More specifically what is she saying about her fellow African-Americans? To see what H-1B means for African-Americans it`s useful to find out how many H-1B visa holders are black, or depending on your definition they could could be considered sub-Saharan African, "colored", or "Negro". Once we know the answer we can gain insight as to whether H-1B is good or bad for African-Americans.

Much to my consternation I found out that the U.S. government doesn`t publish statistics on the racial demographics of H-1B visa holders and in the 20 years of the H-1B program it seems that nobody has tackled the race issue. Many academic studies and government statistics talk about country of origin but not race.

Race is such a taboo topic in our society that nobody has dared to touch the issue for the demographic for the H-1B visa. The paucity of data creates an astounding contradiction considering that race is such an important factor when the EEOC investigates employer diversity quotas, and many companies use the fact that they hire H-1Bs as proof that they have a diversified workforce.

With some research of DHS yearbooks for nonimmigrants, and by making a few logical deductions, I came up with the following table with a racial breakdown of the H-1B population. This could be the first time that a table of the racial demographics of H-1B visa holders has ever been made.

Race

%H-1B

%Total Population

Diversity Ratio

Indian

54

1

54

Asian

18

2

9

Arab

0.4

0.4

1

White

3

75

0.04

Latino

1

10

0.10

Black

0.3

12

0.025

Other

25

unknown

unknown

Definitions for Table: H-1B: Percentage of H-1B visa holders categorized by race. Racial categories were limited to those that contribute substantially to the H-1B visa program.

Total Population: Percentage of each racial group compared to the total population of the United States by using the Census — 2008 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.

Diversity Ratio: 1st column divided by second. This ratio compares the percentages of H-1B racial groups to the general population. Other: cannot determine race of at least 25% of H-1Bs — data unknown. The statistics are very lopsided when the diversity ratio is compared across racial groups and shows very clearly that the H-1Bs that are coming into the U.S. are not representative of the general population. Indians and Asians are overwhelmingly represented — the percentage Indians using H-1B visas is 54 times greater than their percentage in the general population.

The list is ordered from the Indians, who do the best with H-1B, to blacks at the bottom who do the worst. Blacks have a diversity ratio of 0.025 which means that the percentage of blacks using H-1B is 40 times less than the general population.

Arabs have a diversity ratio of 1 which means that they are adequately represented — they are the only group that is. The data indicates that whites, Hispanics, and blacks are being replaced with Indians and Asians in a process that resembles a slow motion ethnic cleansing of the high-tech workforce.

Senator James Webb made some excellent points about the reverse discrimination that too many white Americans experience but what he didn`t consider is that when it comes to H-1B, Asians have moved in front of the line. Most of the beneficiaries he is talking about surely didn`t come from Latin America or Africa!

Those who came to this country in recent decades from Asia, Latin America and Africa did not suffer discrimination from our government, and in fact have frequently been the beneficiaries of special government programs. The same cannot be said of many hard-working white Americans, including those whose roots in America go back more than 200 years. Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege, Senator James Webb, WSJ, July 22, 2010
* MORE INFORMATION REGARDING DATA

The US Census has a limited amount of data that is useful to calculate the racial demographics of the United States. The following groups were singled out because they constitute the most significant percentages of the H-1B program.

Total population of U.S.: 304,059,728

Race

Total In U.S.

Percentage of Total

—–

————

——————

white

228,182,410

75%

black

37,586,050

12%

Chinese

3,077,783

Taiwan

103,884

Korean

1,344,267

Filipino

2,425,697

Japanese

1,298,890

Total Asian

5,824,824

2%

Indian

2,725,594

1%

Latino

30,738,559

10%

I couldn`t find a credible statistic that shows the number of black (mostly African) H-1Bs so I relied on an expert on African-American labor and H-1B who told me that almost all black H-1Bs were from Nigeria.

That theory was verified by looking at the number of H-1Bs by country of origin (DHS Yearbooks) from sub-Saharan Africa. The only other nation in Africa that contributes significantly to H-1B is South Africa, and most of those H-1Bs are probably white.

Since so little has been written about the racial demographics of H-1B some educated guessing is necessary in order to determine how many H-1B visas are issued to blacks. As can be seen from looking at the 2008 Yearbook of admissions, Nigeria is the only significant player in both H-1B visas and student and exchange visas.

A note of caution: admissions is not the same as visas issued, but the following table gives clues about the relative numbers from countries that contribute significant numbers of H-1B visas.

Country

# H-1B admissions

# student admissions

Nigeria

1,470

5,492

Sudan

22

160

Mali

34

490

Ethiopia

116

410

Somalia

0

16

Congo

20

96

The reason Nigeria is a prime source for H-1Bs can be explained by reviewing the history of their education system. By 1950 Nigeria had a fairly good education system that was based on the British model. During that era they produced large numbers of highly educated students but most of them didn`t stay in Nigeria — they immigrated to other countries such as the UK and US where they could have more lucrative careers. The exodus has contributed to a Nigerian brain drain where one in three Nigerian university graduates live and work outside of the country. Over the last two or three decades Nigeria`s schools have deteriorated due to lack of funding, politics, corruption, and an Islamic militancy that prefers to destroy western style schools instead of attending them. Rich Nigerian families send their children abroad to get educated and most of them don`t return to Nigeria once they get college degrees.

The education system in post-independence Nigeria was the pride of the country. With high-quality research and learning in the educational institutions, the country was able to export skilled and knowledgeable graduates. Nigeria`s university graduates were a workforce sought after across the continent. BBC Hausa puts Nigeria`s universities under the spotlight, BBC press release, 2009
For the purpose of assembling the data I assumed that the H-1Bs from India, China, Japan, and Korea were relatively homogeneous and therefore those countries don`t contribute to the number of black H-1Bs. For background on black Africans in India read about the Dalits. Countries such as the UK are so low in total percentages that even if some of their H-1Bs are black it wouldn`t change the numbers significantly.

Country

%H-1B

Race

———————

India

54%

Indian

China

9%

Asian

Philippines

3%

Asian

Korea

3%

Asian

UK

2%

White

Japan

2%

Asian

Taiwan

1%

Asian

Mexico

1%

Hispanic

Germany

1%

White

Nigeria

0.3%

Black

Arabia

0.4%

Arab

Arabia = Lebanon + Syria + Egypt + Morocco + Saudi Arabia

There is an ongoing debate whether race is relevant when discussing India so some may argue about the way I classified people from India as an Indian race. The U.S. census lumps Chinese into the same category as Indians by calling all of them Asians. Generalizations like that obfuscate the race issue and insult people who want their own ethnic identities — so I separated the two categories because to do otherwise would render the statistics rather meaningless.

In India, the Brahmin caste is a race, and almost all H-1Bs are Brahmin. So, generally speaking it`s safe to say that all H-1Bs from India are of one race because very few other castes are allowed to get the education required to qualify for an H-1B visa. The Indian government has a diversity program that is bringing some of the lower caste people into the education system, but even then an outside observer would be hard pressed to tell that most of them are a different race than the Brahmins. India has a significant population of blacks from Africa but their Dalit (untouchable) status makes it unlikely that one of them would ever get the education and opportunities to get an H-1B visa, and even if that happened it would not affect the percentage of Brahmins. After all of this research the obvious conclusion is that Shirley Ann Jackson doesn`t care much about her own people, otherwise she would be asking for the H-1B program to either be abolished or for the number of blacks to be increased to a level that is at least in line with the percentages that are representative of the U.S. population.

One other possible explanation exists — Shirley Ann Jackson just doesn`t know what she is talking about!