Friday, April 25, 2008

H1-Bs: The Myth Exploded

Norm Matloff is a professor of Computer Science at UC-Davis and has been interested in the H1-B/Green Card phenomenon for quite some time.

He's published a new paper which takes on the "Best and Brightest" mythologies of H1-B.

In pressuring Congress to expand the H-1B work visa and employment-based green card programs, industry lobbyists have recently adopted a new tack. Seeing that their past cries of a tech labor shortage are contradicted by stagnant or declining wages, their new buzzword is innovation. Building on their perennial assertion that the foreign workers are “the best and the brightest,” they now say that continued U.S. leadership in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) hinges on our ability to import the world’s best engineers and scientists. Yet, this Backgrounder will present new data analysis showing that the vast majority of the foreign workers — including those at most major tech firms — are people of just ordinary talent, doing ordinary work. They are not the innovators the industry lobbyists portray them to be.

And that's not very difficult to demonstrate.

If the foreign workers are indeed outstanding talents, they would be paid accordingly. We can thus easily determine whether a foreign worker is among “the best and the brightest” by computing the ratio of his salary to the prevailing wage figure stated by the employer. Let’s call this the Talent Measure (TM). Keep in mind that a TM value of 1.0 means that the worker is merely average, not of outstanding talent.

I computed median TM values for various subgroups of interest. A summary of the results is:

--The median TM value over all foreign workers studied was just a hair over 1.0.

--The median TM value was also essentially 1.0 in each of the tech professions studied.

--Median TM was near 1.0 for almost all prominent tech firms that were analyzed.

Contrary to the constant hyperbole in the press that “Johnnie can’t do math” in comparison with kids in Asia, TM values for workers from Western European countries tend to be much higher than those of their Asian counterparts.
Again noting that a TM value of 1.0 means just average, the data show dramatically that most foreign workers, the vast majority of whom are from Asia, are in fact not “the best and the brightest.”

"If you're so damn smart, how come you're not RICH?" is an old taunt, but not useless.

In general terms, Matloff wants you to understand that H1-B programs are a method of increasing supply to diminish the price-point.

And they succeed in that quest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I see many H1B visa workers here doing tech recruiting, software testing, and other non-technical jobs because they work cheap. They just serve to bloat the market and hold down wages.