In a recent study the Pew Research Center said that according to their findings, employers planned in FY16 on paying foreign H-1B visa workers higher salaries than those earned by Americans in similar fields. However, other experts have said that the methods used are flawed and, “not worthy of Pew or experienced researchers to put out”.
The Pew study analyzed the new data from USCIS which released, for the first time, salary information about H-1B visa applications to the public. Pew said that the data showed that the median salary for H-1B visa workers has increased by 15% in the last decade from $69,445 in FY07 to $80,000 in FY16. Pew compared that to the median income earned by all Americans in computer and mathematical fields. U.S. workers only saw a slight increase in salary from $73,979 in FY07 to $75,036 in FY16.
This conclusion could be seen to support the argument that more H-1B visas are needed by technology firms and that these visas do not drive down wages for American workers.
Several experts say that the Pew study is misleading and often makes apples-to-oranges comparisons.
First, Hal Salzman, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey, points out that the Pew study does not address the different types of positions within the math and computer industries. Some companies will hire Americans for low-level, lower-paying jobs while giving the H-1B visa workers higher-level paying positions. The H-1B workers would be making more than Americans but are being paid less than if an American held those higher-paying positions.
Ron Hira, a Howard University professor and research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, pointed to a real-world study of Southern California Edison, who replaced 400 American employees with H-1B visa workers through outsourcing firms. In FY13 Southern California Edison was paying an average annual base salary of $110,446 to its American information technology employees while the H-1B visa workers from the outsourcing firm Infosys made an average of only $70,882 and Tata H-1B workers only made $65,565.
Hira also made the case that if there was a shortage of U.S. workers in these fields and more H-1B workers were needed we would see an increase in salaries. "As far as I can tell, U.S. workers haven't gotten a raise in over a decade," Hira said. "How can there be a shortage [of workers] and no raise? That's simple supply and demand … I think the biggest headline that everybody is missing is that U.S. workers haven’t gotten a raise."
Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, remarked that the Pew study does not account for a variation of salaries based on geography. He said that the majority of H-1B visa workers are located in big cities such as Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. where the cost of living is higher. However, U.S. math and science workers live across the country in areas where salaries may be lower.
John Miano, a labor lawyer who co-authored Sold Out with M. Malkin, predicts that the USCIS under Pres. Trump will release more detailed information about H-1B salaries that will break the income data down by age, specific occupation, and location.
"When that comes out, it won't be pretty," he said.
Read more on this story at LifeZette.
Updated: Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 10:15am EDT