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The H-1B program and its effects on information technology workers

Author

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  • Madeline Zavodny

Abstract

Employment in the information technology (IT) field rose rapidly during the late 1990s. Many IT employees are foreign born and are working in the United States with H-1B visas-temporary nonimmigrant visas issued for terms of up to six years. Critics of the H-1B program contend that it reduces job opportunities and wages for native workers. The programs' supporters argue that H-1B workers-who typically have at least a bachelor's degree in a specialty such as computer programming-help address a shortage of skilled native workers and fill positions that would otherwise go vacant. ; This article examines whether the H-1B visa program negatively affects IT workers' wages. The author uses data on labor condition applications (LCAs) filed with the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate whether the number of H-1B workers in an area, relative to the total number of IT workers in that area, is negatively associated with the level of and change in average IT wages and the unemployment rate among IT workers in that area. ; The results provide little support for claims that the program has a negative impact on wages. However, some results do suggest a positive relationship between the number of LCA applications and the unemployment rate a year later. The failure to find an adverse wage effect does not necessarily indicate that H-1B workers do not depress wages but perhaps signals that any effect is difficult to find, as previous studies concluded.

Suggested Citation

  • Madeline Zavodny, 2003. "The H-1B program and its effects on information technology workers," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q3, pages 33-43.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedaer:y:2003:i:q3:p:33-43:n:v.88no.3
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Orrenius, Pia M. & Zavodny, Madeline, 2007. "Does immigration affect wages? A look at occupation-level evidence," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 757-773, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lin, Carl, 2011. "Give Me Your Wired and Your Highly Skilled: Measuring the Impact of Immigration Policy on Employers and Shareholders," IZA Discussion Papers 5754, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. William R. Kerr & William F. Lincoln, 2010. "The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and U.S. Ethnic Invention," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(3), pages 473-508, July.
    3. Clifford, Robert, 2014. "Demand for H-1B visas in New England: an analysis of employer requests for highly-skilled guest workers," New England Public Policy Center Policy Reports 14-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    4. William R. Kerr & William F. Lincoln & Prachi Mishra, 2014. "The Dynamics of Firm Lobbying," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 343-379, November.
    5. Sankar Mukhopadhyay & David Oxborrow, 2012. "The Value of an Employment-Based Green Card," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(1), pages 219-237, February.

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