It is widely claimed that the H-1B program "takes away jobs from Americans." For example, here's a message posted in the Academia chat room by SSimon not long ago:

The way I understand it when H-1B's are brought into the country it takes away jobs from college graduates. They graduate after 4 years thinking they will a job in the sciences and find they are all mostly going to H-1B's allowed in the country.

Here are a few more examples of that claim:

However, I have also heard claims to the contrary. For example, this fact sheet: Debunking the myth that immigration harms America.

The main piece of academic research that is cited on this subject is Immigration and American Jobs, by Madeline Zavodny, which claims that hiring H1B workers results in more jobs being created for native US workers. However, this work has been criticized for being highly sensitive to the time period under consideration (and for other reasons).

Another paper, The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and US Ethnic Invention by William R. Kerr and William F. Lincoln, looks at patent trends and concludes that "natives are not likely being crowded-out in large numbers by higher H-1B admissions".

A more recent (February 2016) paper, The Effects of High-Skilled Immigration Policy on Firms: Evidence from Visa Lotteries by Kirk Doran, Alexander Gelber, and Adam Isen, makes the opposite claim: that "H-1Bs appear to crowd out similar workers". However, this paper is limited to small and medium-sized firms, while most H-1B visas go to outsourcing companies and large firms, where the effect may be different (e.g. the outsourcing companies' employees may not be perfect substitutes for U.S. workers, the large firms may be better placed to build up additional U.S. jobs around foreign workers, etc.)

Does the H-1B visa program cause a net decrease in the employment prospects of skilled U.S. job applicants in STEM fields?

  • 6
    Would a link to coverage of Disney's laying off a bunch of US workers after making them train their H1B replacements count? That's an example of jobs held by Americans that were lost due to what should really be abuse of the H1B visa system.
    – Patrick87
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 10:29
  • 3
    @Patrick87 No, while I don't doubt that instances of abuse exist, that says nothing about net effect on employment prospects.
    – ff524
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 10:37
  • 4
    The problem is that this is hard to research well. How do you account for hiring managers' going through the motions to pretend to consider non-H1Bs to satisfy the requirements of the employment law, but "under the covers" choosing cheaper H1Bs under some plausible excuse after going through the process motions? How do you account for H1Bs - being lower paid - being the less likely to be let go during downsizing? How do you account for H1B holders from specific demographics preferencing other H1Bs due to unconscious bias or networking effects?
    – user5341
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 17:32
  • 1
    @user5341: H1-Bers being "cheaper" has been debunked multiple times. "H-1B visa holders earn more than comparable native-born workers. H-1B workers are paid more than U.S. native-born workers with a bachelor’s degree generally ($76,356 versus $67,301 in 2010) and even within the same occupation and industry for workers with similar experience."
    – vartec
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 23:25
  • 3
    @vartec Which doesn't look at the hours they actually work. If you replace an American working 40 hr/wk with a H1-B working 60 or 80 hr/wk it looks ok by the rules but isn't. You're also assuming the hires match the job description. Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 0:02


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