I hate to put it this way, but not only do vested interests “buy” Congress, but they also buy the research Congress cites to support legislation desired by those vested interests. (And as an added bonus, the vested interests will also draft the legislation itself.)
In this post I’ll discuss the industry funding of pro-H-1B research, giving various examples. But first, I must raise the question of what impact the money has on the findings of industry-funded researchers. I want to make it clear that I am sure that all of these researchers sincerely believe an expansive H-1B program is good for the nation. On the other hand, I want to make it clear that, YES, the money has an impact on the analyses these researchers develop.
Here is a concrete example: Several of the industry-funded researchers make claims regarding supposed job-creating powers of the H-1Bs. Putting aside the serious methodological problems with such studies, I have asked, why don’t these researchers also try to measure the job-creating powers of the American workers? If the American job-creation rate were higher than that of the H-1Bs, wouldn’t that be an argument AGAINST expanding the H-1B program? But if you as a researcher have an industrial patron, you will not calculate the American rate, as it may turn out to be counter to your patron’s agenda. (In fact, even if this particular project is not funded by the patron, you still will need to avoid the patron’s displeasure anyway.)
The other point I wish to make before getting to the funding examples is that even those of you readers who are not statisticians or economists can easily spot pro-H-1B bias, in the following simple way: Just look at the bibliography section of the researcher’s papers. If the researcher either never or rarely cites papers that are critical of H-1B, then there is a clear bias. (It also is a violation of a central tenet of academia. One is supposed to cite all major relevant work; one may explain why disagree with such work, but one can’t ignore it.) I’ve found that most of the pro-H-1B researchers fall into this category.
An excellent example of how insidious the process is can be found in Tuesday’s press release by Senators Hatch and Flake, citing a string of pro-H-1B research papers to justify the senators’ bill to greatly expand H-1B. Every one of these papers is authored by people with industry funding. And other than Bill Kerr’s work (which I’ve generally praised, though with some criticism as well), none of the papers cite any work that questions whether H-1B is working well. And sadly, the mainstream media won’t call Hatch and Flake out on such deception.
These days the work of my UCD colleague Giovanni Peri is often cited in support for H-1B, but his funding by Microsoft and PNAE is not mentioned. The press also overlooks Madeline Zavodny’s funding by the American Enterprise Institute. Similarly, the press didn’t seem to know that pro-H-1B Matthew Slaughter of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business (now dean of the school) has financial ties to a number of entities in the business community.
Let’s not forget the Brookings Institution. Brookings, a major advocate of H-1B, has been accused of a “research for sale” policy. Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been among the most generous donors to Brookings, according to the latter’s annual reports, and most of the seminars held by Brookings on the H-1B issue have included a panelist from Microsoft.
Over the years, University of Washington computer science professor Ed Lazowska has been quite outspoken in his support of H-1B. Again, I am sure he is sincere, but one cannot ignore the financial implications, both for his department (he is former chair) and himself personally. As I wrote in my University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform article,
The Web page of the Computer Science Department at the University of Washington, a leading supporter of industry’s labor shortage claims, showed the following as of March 16, 2000: $1.5 milion from Ford Motor Co. in research funds; “several million dollars” in equipment from Intel; $500,000 from Boeing for an endowed faculty chair; another $500,000 chair from Microsoft; another chair from Boeing; and finally, $3 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for two endowed chairs. Department chair Ed Lazowska, who has been an outspoken supporter of the H-1B program, personally benefits financially from a cozy relationship with industry too. According to his personal Web page, http://lazowska.cs.washington.edu/, he is “member of the Technical Advisory Boards for Microsoft Research, Voyager Capital, Ignition, Frazier Technology Ventures, Madrona Venture Group, and Impinj, and of the Boards of Directors of Data I/O Corporation and Lguide.com.”
Even an insightful Wall Street Journal column that questioned research claiming special job-creation powers for H-1Bs dropped the ball in this regard, failing to note that one of the statisticians it cited has ties to the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Augustus Fragomen, probably the most prominent immigration lawyer in the U.S.A., once wrote that the AILA “commissions academic studies to support our positions.”
Think twice before accepting “research” cited by politicians.