Do H1B visas have a negative impact on the U.S. economy?
One of the main reasons for the opposition of the H1B visas is that they replace native workers with foreign workers and thus, result in fewer job prospects for the Americans. Trump’s famous campaign slogan of “bringing jobs back” led a lot of Americans to vote for him in the hope that he will rescind the H1B visa.
This leads to the question, do H1Bs have a negative impact on the U.S. economy?
Studies suggest the opposite.
A study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that foreign workers and native workers cannot be exchanged for each other and thus they are not identical. In fact, they are complementary workers.
The rise and fall of jobs for workers who come to the U.S. on an H1-B visa and their American counterparts have been associated together. The studies found that when foreign STEM workers were denied visas, American companies did not necessarily employ more native workers. The wages paid to the American workers and their employment opportunities remained the same even when workers from other countries were not given H1B permits.
The demand for workers or the unemployment of workers in STEM cannot simply be calculated by the number of native-born people who graduate with a STEM degree. This is because their choice of profession and the job skills required by the labor market keeps changing. So, while an ‘xyz’ number of Americans may graduate with a STEM degree, we cannot definitively say that all of them will pursue a profession in the sciences. Therefore, merely looking at the number of graduates with a STEM degree to argue against the employment of H1-B workers, is a flawed reasoning.
H1-B workers greatly contribute to an invention in the U.S. economy and numerous researches have been conducted to corroborate this point. The research led by Jennifer Hunt and Marjolaine Gauthier-Loiselle in the National Bureau of Economic Research found that with one percent increase in the population of immigrant college graduates, the overall patent per-capita increased by 9-18 percent.
The inflow of foreign talent provides a lot of intellectual diversity that consequently boosts the economy. Foreign workers are brought up in different environments, religions, and cultures. So, their way of approaching a problem or working on a given task is considerably different from the native-born workers. Homogeneity in thought processes can often lead to road-blocks. Thus, the different assortment of ideas that foreign workers bring in, substantially helps in innovation.
It is difficult to determine the net effect of the H1B visa program on the U.S. economy. However, there is no denying that it has significantly contributed to innovation and economic growth.
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