Urban Inst. Study — Textbook Case of Fallacious Reasoning by the Highly Educated

Universities go through a lot of hand wringing in setting “general education requirements,” designed to produce well-rounded graduates who are capable of rigorous intellectual reasoning, and thus able to be productive in society and the economy beyond their areas of technical specialization. Well, easier said than done. In my experience, there are many college graduates — good grades at “good” schools — who are innumerate (quantitative analog of the term illiterate), and who either fall victim to fallacious quantitative arguments or, worse, make such arguments themselves.

This is seen again and again in discussions of immigration policy. In July I described an example of this involving the tragic murder of a young woman in San Francisco — a so-called “sanctuary city” — by an unauthorized immigrant. The innumeracy issue of course paled in comparison to the tragedy itself, but I felt compelled to point out the pathetic situation in which the community activist defending SF’s policy could not tell the difference between rates and absolute numbers. The issue of sanctuary cities, not to mention illegal/alegal immigration in general, is complicated enough without the discussion being ruined by the quantitative incompetence of its advocates.

Another example is the pitch frequently made by advocates of expansive immigration policies that, rather than displacing U.S. citizen/permanent resident workers, immigrants take jobs that are complementary to those held by Americans. Such is the theme of this new Urban Institute study., by Maria Enchautegui, whose findings are summarized in this National Journal headline:

Immigrants Aren’t Stealing American Jobs

More evidence surfaces that low-skilled native workers pursue different jobs than their immigrant counterparts.

Of course, they’ve got it backwards. A typical pattern is that immigrants flood a certain sector of the job market, then either suppressing wages and thus making this job category unattractive to natives or downright blocking the Americans from entering the sector. Yes, in that scenario the Americans and immigrants wind up doing complementary jobs, but to say that no displacement occurred is sheer folly.

I’ve mentioned examples before. For instance, there is my “Hamburger Theory”: In California, the workers at McDonald’s stores are mainly immigrants, whereas they used to largely consist of native teenagers in their first jobs. (And in the In ‘N Out chain, which pays more, that is still the case today.) Native teenagers used to deliver newspapers, but now it’s the job of adult immigrants.

An especially sad example occurred after Hurricane Katrina (emphasis added):

The August 29 press conference included a video presentation of the story of some 70 American workers from Mobile, Alabama, who had traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi, to take reconstruction jobs. After about ten days on the job these mainly black workers were told by their employer that their services were no longer required, because “The Mexicans are here.” The panel of CBA representatives, headlined by nationally syndicated radio talk show host Armstrong Williams, discussed how many American citizens who desperately need those jobs to restore not only their homes, but their livelihoods, are being systematically discriminated against with the approval of the government.

So those Mexicans did do work that is technically complementary to the Americans, but not in the happy setting the Urban Institute people would have you envision.

At the high-skilled level, I often cite a 1989 NSF internal report that stated (and advocated) that bringing in a large number of STEM graduate students would have the effect of holding down PhD wages, and would thus dissuade American students from studying for a doctoral degree. That is of course is what happened, and now more than 50% of U.S. PhDs in computer science are earned by foreign students. The congressionally-commissioned NRC study found that pursuing a PhD results in a lifetime loss in earnings for domestic students. So again, there is complementarity — the immigrants earn graduate degrees while the Americans don’t — but it did indeed come from displacement, contrary to what the Urban Institute’s Enchautegui implies.

Some analysts admit the displacement but say the presence of the immigrants “frees” the Americans to do better jobs. General Wesley Clark, a presidential candidate in 2004 (who was supported by Bill and Hillary Clinton), called computer programming “mind numbing,” and said, apparently because H-1B is used to facilitate offshoring, “Let them do the software in India. We’ll do other things in this country.”

So don’t worry about the fact that that 1989 NSF forecast about STEM PhDs came true. It freed Americans from doing mind-numbing work — such as being professors.


48 thoughts on “Urban Inst. Study — Textbook Case of Fallacious Reasoning by the Highly Educated

  1. Yes, I’ve seen you mention the 1989 NSF internal report on several occasions. Is the text of this report available from any source? How do you know about it?


  2. NSF has nothing to do with skill level. Some science, tech, engineering and math occupations (and workers, including professionals) are highly-skilled and some are low-skilled and most range across the middle/mediocre). Some “IT” workers are low-skilled and some highly-skilled (and why does it sound wrong, but intellectually seem preferable to say/write lowly-skilled?), and the vast majority are middling. There are physics PhD-holders (including the occasional tenured university professor and researcher) who can barely function, while others rain great new ideas for advancing research and teaching methods, and there are machinists down in the basement of the physics departments who are brilliant and very highly skilled. There are highly-skilled janitors and low-skilled janitors. There are highly-skilled baseball players and low-skilled baseball players. There are highly-skilled manure shovelers and low-skilled manure shovelers, highly-skilled ditch diggers and low-skilled ditch diggers, highly-skilled fishermen and low-skilled fishermen, highly-skilled doctors and low-skilled doctors, highly-skilled dentists and low-skilled dentists, highly-skilled economists and low-skilled economists…

    STEM != highly-skilled
    Or perhaps some prefer the notation
    STEM <> highly-skilled

    There are no “high skill” occupations. There are no “low skill” occupations.


    • I agree totally that the word and concept of “skill” is terribly abused. In IT it always means, “Have you done any of it?” and not, “Are you any good at it?” much less, “If we gave you the manual and four hours, *would* you be any good at it?”

      The only term more abused is “talent”. What next, start reading the bumps on people’s heads?

      How about looking at a record of achievement, actual objective events? Which would of course favor the more experienced, older candidates. Harumph.


  3. There is a very interesting little known book, written in the 50s, called “The Cook” (Harry Kressing). If you have never heard of it, I’d read it. It’s an interesting little story. The “cook” of the title arrives in a small town, and becomes the cook of a rich man. He uses sneaky methods to gradually replace the actual owners with him and his friends, and at the end of the story, the high have been made low, and the low are on the top.

    He does it by secret knowledge, which he uses as a lever to gain advantage. And this is what is happening with the H-1B scabs. They are brought in as “secret knowledge bearers”, because they can “do things Americans cannot do”, which is of course a vast pile of reeking shit. This is used to increasingly replace Americans and supplant our dominance of an area ESSENTIALLY INVENTED in the United States by American IT workers.


  4. but I felt compelled to point out the pathetic situation in which the community activist defending SF’s policy could not tell the difference between rates and absolute numbers. The issue of sanctuary cities, not to mention illegal/alegal immigration in general, is complicated enough without the discussion being ruined by the quantitative incompetence of its advocates.

    It isn’t incompetence and that author knew exactly what he was doing. Anybody paying attention to this issue in the media knows that this is just one of the many tricks used to fool their audience who is even dumber than them.

    I have commented on publications like Design News, who you would think have the facts and a balanced view, about the so-called shortage of engineering talent and the number of columnists and commentators there who continue to spew out the “facts” about the shortage of talent of the “lack of qualified Americans” or the “low educational attainment of Americans” is probably not due to ignorance.

    It is known that governments are paying people to comment on these sites to try and move the herd in a particular direction and it is known that a lot of the stories during the Red Menace scares were written and placed in newspapers by the CIA using the bylines of respected columnists to influence public opinion. Billionaires who want unlimited cheap labor would not be above such tricks.


    • For various reasons, I am sure that the women who couldn’t differentiate between rates and absolute numbers was completely sincere. She was simply stupid.


  5. Norm, I don’t really find anything objectionable about this article per se. There is of course one (1) classic case of “jobs Americans won’t do”, which is manual food harvesting. Of course part of that classic case is that the illegal (or legal, during the “bracero” days) workers were paid less than the minimum wage and generally abused as well, so I’m not sure anyone wants to bring it up as a shining example! But that was mostly fixed by the 1980s (wasn’t it?). So writing this article in that spirit, is a generation behind the facts.

    The problem with the article is something never stated, that this statistical study is an observation on a benign situation. But we have to admit, we have allowed many millions of illegals in for decades, with only the most sporadic efforts at enforcement. Would we let a *problem* go on so long? Answer: YES!

    But maybe some subtlety is appropriate here. Maybe we still need “guest workers” for some of these categories. That is something the study might be useful for discussing. At a glance, there is just one category that perhaps should be called out: construction. That used to be a high-wage category, and in certain union situations perhaps still is, in places, but the wages have been cut in half, and more, by the legal and illegal Hispanic (and Korean, and Russian) immigrants.

    Another classic category is nursing, but this article was about those without high school and nurses are now required to have some college. Another and growing category is “caregivers” for the elderly that do NOT require college, or even high school AFAIK. And are often now compensated at or below the minimum wage, but instead including room and board. This study may have lumped them into other categories, or else missed them entirely.

    Overall of course I agree with your comment about displacement, I am constantly shouting about direction of causality issues in these discussions. But there is nothing explicitly wrong with this article, that I can see.


  6. Many American citizens can cite numerous cases of anecdotal evidence supporting this. We have a friend who owns an artificial rock company and he has two sons now in their early and mid twenties. He encouraged them to work in construction for a couple years to get a feeling of who and what they would be working with.

    Without dear old Dad stepping in and forcing the issue, they could not get hired doing the most menial construction work. The deck is stacked against non-immigrants of any legal status.

    I recently had a conversation with a professional welder in his 50’s. He warned his son away from welding due to the decrease in pay and the strong discrimination against non-immigrants. He claims a former $100,000/yr profession is now a $40,000/yr job, if you’re lucky.

    Of course, there don’t seem to be any relevant studies about this phenomenon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • > I recently had a conversation with a professional welder in his 50’s. He warned his son away from welding due to the decrease in pay and the strong discrimination against non-immigrants. He claims a former $100,000/yr profession is now a $40,000/yr job, if you’re lucky.

      With the current trends, I truly don’t know what profession I would advise a young person to go into. I know that I would not advise computers as I would have 20 years ago, at least not unless the person were incredibly gifted and/or had some angle that would protect him or her from the deluge of cheap labor. I had thought that some trades that cannot be outsourced, like welding, plumbing, or electrician might provide some protection but your story suggests otherwise.

      Sadly, I might suggest financial services though I have less respect for that field after the financial crisis. However, it seems that we are moving more toward a world where only those close to the power or the money can be ensured of a decent living. In the financial industry, at least you’re close the money! It seems like many of those in power have a distorted view of the free market. They set the laws to bring in cheap labor and when wages drop they say “see, you programmers aren’t as skilled and as valuable as you thought”. Then they point to the high wages paid to CEOs and the financial sector and say “see, we are actually much more valuable than you. The free market says so!”.

      > Of course, there don’t seem to be any relevant studies about this phenomenon.

      Actually, there may be one which shows some of its effects. There was an interesting story on it on the PBS Newshour titled “Has despair led to a stunning hike in mortality rates for some Americans?”. You can see the transcript at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/despair-led-stunning-hike-mortality-rates-americans/ . Following are a couple of excerpts:

      > The other thing that really sticks out about them is, beyond the unemployment rate, which can be a little bit deceptive, there is the work force participation rate. In these places, you’re talking about all these communities I just outlined, 44 percent, 45 percent of the population not in the work force.

      > … It used to be the case that, with a high school degree, you could get a good job, you could get a job with benefits, you could get a job that was stable, that you had job security. And I think people’s narratives of their own lives had in them having a job, and the fact that these jobs are gone and they’re not coming back any time soon leads people to despair.


  7. Norm,

    You are a computer science professor and a top one at that. By all means, are you exactly aware how hot the tech market is right now? I have 3.5 years of work exp in software industry and I am currently on STEM OPT. I get calls from companies all over the west coast almost daily with potential offers hovering around 180K/yr and above yet i am struggling to get through H1b lottery. I am not even talking about googles and facebooks here where a candidate with similar experience would be making above 250K/yr. I don’t think I am very special and I frankly believe there are lots of programmers with similar work experience much better than me who can be demanding even higher packages. You cannot say that the whole farm is wasted just by looking at few bad apples ( Edison and Disney).


    • I know many people who get calls every day, but the calls don’t pan out. Don’t take those recruiters at face value.

      If you think I’m extrapolating from Edison and Disney, you know ZERO about my views on H-1B and related issues.

      The H-1B lottery is awful. I, like many others, have proposed replacing the lottery by a ranking based on salary; if n visas are available, they would go to the firms offering the n highest salaries. A good exercise for you would be to think about why the Googles and Facebooks don’t want this. If they were really paying H-1Bs $250K, they’d win the lottery, so they ought to support it. Ask yourself, why don’t they?


      • Black Jack,

        I have 30 years of experience in the software industry and I get no calls AND I am a American Citizen.
        Do you think that there is something wrong when somebody like you who is basically a newbie gets calls and we don’t?

        Before you answer that, think about this.
        One of these days if you live long enough, you too will be over 45 and the calls will dry up for you for the same reasons that they did for myself and hundreds of thousands of others.

        Will your answer be the same then as it is now?


      • Prof. Matloff,

        I find your articles interesting and insightful. I wanted to seek your response to the following comment. You have proposed replacing the lottery by a ranking based on salary. But salary depends on the market sector, level of experience (age), etc., and may not necessarily indicate the “best and the brightest”. The ranking should be a composite measurement wherein factors such as salary (normalized by 95 percentile salary of people working in similar jobs doing similar tasks), academic experience (level of education, reputation of universities wherein degrees were obtained, number of research papers published and number of citations, etc.), prior work experience pertaining to challenging projects, etc. must be considered.


        • In theory, workers with higher salaries are more valuable to the employes and thus more valuable to the economy. Employers don’t always get salary offers quite right, but as a rough measure — any government policy can only be roughly correct — it makes sense. I don’t most of your proposed criteria anyway, by the way, but in any case they are irrelevant to the principle.


          • I agree that it is a rough measure. But it still doesn’t address the salary disparity between different disciplines. An entry level civil engineer could have a Ph.D. in earthquake engineering from U.C. Berkeley, but in terms of salary, he would not be able to compete with a Bachelor’s degree I.T. engineer with some years of experience.

            To be precise, your recommendation is not about “bringing in the best and brightest”, but rather skewing the allocation of H-1B visas to higher paying market sectors, such as I.T, finance, etc.


          • Lots of details on the salary ranking proposal would need to be worked out; it has been made by several different people, presumably with several different sets of implementation details. In my case, I’ve said the ranking could be relative, say the number of standard deviations above the mean for the given occupation and region. (And no, I would NOT take educational level as a criterion.)

            The salary-ranking idea is nice in that it is directly related to the presumed degree of economic contribution, thus presumably attractive to the free-market zealots. (But NOT attractive to the industry, as I said, so all this is just an intellectual exercise, a parlor game.) Personally, I have instead favored changing the definition of prevailing wage, most importantly dropping the current definition that is based on experience levels. As I said yesterday and have said in virtually every blog posting, op-ed, research paper, press interview and so on, H-1B is largely about AGE, with the younger H-1Bs being hired instead of the older Americans. I support the proposal made by DPE, which would set the prevailing wage at the 75th percentile of wages for all workers in the given occupation and region.

            Your use of the word compete is very telling. It shows that you are looking at things from the point of view of what is good for the foreign workers. I’m looking from the point of view of what is good for the American workers, and the U.S. economy and well-being.


          • In response to your comment, “Lots of details….U.S. economy and well being”:

            Notice that your statement that the ranking could be relative contradicts your previous statement that the ‘n’ available visas should go to the firms offering the ‘n’ highest salaries. Nevertheless, you made an important clarification, and I generally agree with your points.

            You have misinterpreted my use of the word ‘compete’. An entry level foreign civil engineer will not compete with an experienced U.S. computer engineer. The competition is between a foreign civil engineer and a foreign I.T. engineer, both of whom desire an H-1B visa that is subject to your ranking scheme.


          • There is no contradiction. Remember, the whole idea is to use the ranking as a proxy for “best and brightest.” Under my version of the ranking, we’d be getting the best and brightest in some fields, whatever they turn out to be.

            I did not misinterpret your use of the word compete, which you’ll understand if you read my posting again.


          • I did see your posting again, and I see what you are saying. It’s true that I am looking from the perspective of what is good for foreigners, and you are looking from the perspective of what is good for U.S. workers. But I will clarify that I am not antagonistic to the interests of U.S. workers, which is why I agree with some of your recommendations. Similarly, you probably are not entirely antagonistic to the interests of foreign workers, which is why you continue to talk of some of them being “best and brightest”.


          • I know you are not antagonistic to the American workers, but I’m disappointed to see your comment that I am not entirely antagonistic to the foreign workers. I believe that you will find nothing in all my 20+ years of writing on this topic that indicates I bear any will will toward the foreign workers. They are just trying to make a better life for themselves, and most have mistakenly bought into the notion that they are complementing, rather than displacing U.S. workers, so they have a clear conscience.

            I do have a problem with those foreign/immigrant workers who have a sense of entitlement, and those who favor their own ethnicity in hiring.


          • It is no secret that TCS, Infosys, HCL, Accenture and IBM or Intel abuse these visas and the process of appropiating these visas to the max.

            It seems like Indian outsourcers stuff the application box which triggers the lottery. They don’t care which 6000 of the 20,000 newbies (or freshers) they send to the US interior.

            But I know of startups who pay their employees with many incentives – flex work hours, stock, 2 fridays per week off, lots of vacation. And they’re not all in IT. There are other sectors where an H1-B visa would do well for a small company but they can’t afford the 150k in salary.

            So professor Matloff, don’t you think that guaranteeing that every company gets gets at least 2 H1-B requests fulfilled and the lottery occurs after the first 40-50k visas have been allocated?

            This way banks and IT companies won’t be able to rely on having an army of cheap Indian H1-Bs from Infosys. And small startups will get their man or woman from Sweden or Argetina.


          • So you’re admitting that NON-bodyshop employers like H-1B because it provides them with cheap labor, just like the bodyshops. Then why should we give them a break?

            I go back to my example yesterday, the older American who I have repeatedly seen get outright rejected for jobs while my foreign students apply to the same companies and get interviews and eventually offers. This American is at least as qualified as my foreign students. You mention Sweden and Argentina for some reason, but if you think that matters to me, you’ve totally misread me. My point is that this American guy should be hired.


        • @Professor Matloff.
          I admit your point; I was commenting to say that, “if there are no qualified Americans”. I know that it’s pretty much a canard because if there aren’t any available, you have to find one from another company and offer him/her a higher wage.

          Or, wait until the next batch of graduates is available and train them.

          My point is that, if you must – salary alone may not be the best possible way to allocate these visas because there are forms of compensation which are also just as important.
          A company that can pay a higher salary is simply then buying the H1-B visa like those wealthy people who buy a motel or a gas station as a means to get a green card.
          By doing this, you’re denying a smaller company with less money to get their worker.

          At the end of the day however, everyone who imports anything that’s cheaper is getting a break – yes you’re right. I cross the US / Canada border all the time. Neither government wants me to buy something and bring it in but they’re eager to hand out work permits in my field.


          • When even one of the clearest-thinking of commenters here doesn’t understand what I’m saying, I’m in real trouble.

            Please read again about the American I know whom the companies are passing over in favor of my foreign students. Then re-read what you wrote above.


    • Blackjack, you can’t possibly be getting multiple offers each week, as that would require you to attend multiple job interviews each week.

      None of the tech companies offer jobs without interviewing the candidate at least once.


      • Tony,

        But seriously, he could be doing multiple interviews if he is participating in the “Proxy Interview” scam where they pay a person to do their interviews for them and they lip synch while on the camera.

        I am actively looking for PROOF that this is happening.
        That, and fake resumes.

        If any of your are aware of PROOF of either, please send them to me at vbiersch@gmail.com and if you are an H-1B and you don’t think you are being paid what you are supposed to be paid, please send me a copy of your 2015 pay stubs or direct deposit data and I will take a look at them for you and put you in touch with the right authorities if you are not being paid according to the American standards.

        As always, you can reach me at vbiersch@gmail.com or Keep America At Work

        For those that are curious, I looked at a System Administrators pay yesterday and it was obvious when he was benched and it is obvious that he is on salary, yet his pay has changed 4 times during the course of a year.


        • I don’t have paper documentation, but I have a story for you. I got a contract, at good rates, about two years ago, in a large ongoing project. A friend working there recommended me. The slot opened up like this, they’d interviewed and hired an H-1B, at probably about half the rate I got, but it turned out he couldn’t even begin to do the work and admitted his interview had been done by proxy.

          Of course I felt terribly honored and proud to have taken his place.


      • Tony,

        I said ‘I get calls from companies all over the west coast almost daily with potential offers hovering around 180K/yr ‘. Please tell me if it implies attending interviews every week. Maybe you heard of Linkedin?


          • Norm,

            I have also said I seen couple of those offers personally (implying that I did attend some of them). Do i need to attend all the interviews every week to actually prove my point? Also why would a recruiter call you if the hiring manager don’t think you are a potential prospect after looking at your resume?


          • If there is one thing that stands out in my many years of writing on this issue, it is the uselessness of recruiters. These are people who’ve never written a line of code in their life and have no idea was is required for the jobs they are ostensibly trying to fill.


    • Black Jack, I am intrigued by your story. How sure are you about those salaries? Are you talking cash, or are you monetizing benefits and options? I know that Silicon Valley pays a lot of bleeding edge skills *much* more generously than anywhere else in the country (AFAIK – maybe Manhattan?), but I had not had the impression that many jobs were really in that range.

      I only know (second-hand) of one case a couple of years ago now, where a highly experienced person took a position of about $200k for some early work on cloud technologies, and if he’d been a local it might have been a bit higher.

      Anything you can say about exactly what “skills” and areas you’ve been working in, would be appreciated.


  8. > Another example is the pitch frequently made by advocates of expansive immigration policies that, rather than displacing U.S. citizen/permanent resident workers, immigrants take jobs that are complementary to those held by Americans. Such is the theme of this new Urban Institute study., by Maria Enchautegui, whose findings are summarized in this National Journal headline:

    It seems a stretch to call the Enchautegui piece a “study”. Even if you assume that she tabulated the data from the 2013 American Community Survey correctly, she seems to totally misinterpret her own data. Yes, immigrant and native workers without high school diplomas do not go into each type of job in the exact same percentages. And Enchautegui likely is correct when she says the following:

    > “Even among those without high school diplomas, immigrant and native workers can be quite different, and these differences may affect their access to jobs. For instance, many immigrants are not fluent in English, which can limit their access to certain jobs. Also, natives can work legally in jobs requiring state licensing, but unauthorized immigrants cannot.”

    This likely does have something to do with which jobs immigrants and native workers are over-represented in. But Enchautegui seems to missing the forest for the trees in focusing on the representation rates and ignoring the overall numbers. The lists of the top 10 over-represented occupations gives no indication as to how many workers are in each of those occupations. If only one percent of workers are in these 20 occupations combined, then they are they are poor indicators of the overall competition.

    When you look at the top 10 occupations by numbers for both groups that she gives before the over-representation percents, you can see some very big areas of potential competition. It shows 400,000 immigrant cooks and 388,000 native cooks, 369K immigrant janitors and 395K native janitors, 376K immigrant and 291K native construction workers, and 465K immigrant and 269 native maids and housekeepers. Do you think that there may be any competition there? The best way to judge this would be to try to look at the supply and demand and the resulting unemployment and displacement of these workers. No attempt to made to measure these.

    Finally, as is often the case, the title totally throws away any pretense of scholarship and makes the broad sweeping statement “Immigrant and native workers compete for different low-skilled jobs”. This despite the charts underneath showing that they both compete for cooks, janitors, construction workers, maids and housekeepers, and more.


  9. Norm,

    I don’t take many things at face value especially when it comes to money :). I have seen those offers personally, hence made the statement. As far as I have seen on west coast, anyone who puts in an extra bit of effort, can reap rewards regarding salary packages. May be my American colleagues are getting paid higher than me, though it is unlikely because my company is very choosy and is currently struggling to find the right candidates at the same time. Many companies, especially on west coast, prefer to hire Americans, if they can, simply because they are a better culture fit.

    I read good number of your articles and kind of felt that you were basing your conclusions on the negatives that get published and circulated. Obviously you have seen more of the industry than me but when i look around me, I see only few instances where H1b workers are being exploited at the expense of american jobs. Yes exploitation/fraud does happen from time to time and I don’t deny that. Frankly, I believe such companies shouldn’t even be given benefit of doubt.

    Salary based ranking looks good from outside but I am not sure if it would work. It leaves companies with a predicament as to how much money would be high enough. You might say a company should be willing to pay as high as it can, since they are bringing in the ‘best and the brightest’. The ‘best and the brightest’ argument makes me cringe too but I accept that it is a ‘policy’ term. I can personally vouch that I am not the ‘best and brightest’ but i am a valuable contributor in my team. Can my team run without me? Of course they can. Would it be efficient for the company/team, if i leave now (I am on STEM OPT and struggling for H1b)? No!!

    Where does this leave us? I am personally not in favour of increasing H1bs to 500K or so. This would most definitely open the floodgates for all kinds of problems and is more open to exploitation, especially considering green cards backlogs. But why not staple green cards to foreign students with Master’s diploma from accredited American universities? I am aware of your argument that there are universities out there who are diploma factories and hence this would be a bad idea. I am not so sure about that. If these universities happen to be involved in such practices without maintaining certain standard of education, they should be barred from such provisions and/or even prohibited from issuing I20s altogether. Don’t you think this way America would have access to people who are highly educated and and who are willing to contribute back to the society? If this is being done, then govt can probably think of reducing the number of H1bs too, if it feels necessary.

    I know you are strong on your views 🙂 but I kindly request you to look at the other side of the prism. I am not sure but is there a possibility you have been mainly hearing about the negatives that come out of such programs? I believe America is a meritocratic society and if a person is even remotely good enough and willing to put in effort, he/she should be doing well. I have read posts from guys like vbierswale all over the internet who say that they find it difficult to get a software job in this climate and I empathize with them. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder whether they tried hard enough? I apologize if my last statement offended anyone. Thanks for renting out your online real estate to me Norm :).


    • I’ve been studying H-1B and related issues for more than 20 years. I do so not only by analyzing the data but by talking to people in the industry — programmers, engineers, data scientists, recruiters, managers and so on. I hear regularly from people all across the U.S. I am not “a blind boy touching an elephant.”

      A couple of years ago, I and several other researchers visited the campus of one of the most famous Internet-oriented Silicon Valley firms. We met with an HR person and a senior engineering manager, and they volunteered the information that they highly value the fact that their foreign workers are immobile, and that they have a policy of hiring at least x% foreign workers. So, they are giving foreign workers priority over Americans. Of course, I already knew this — it’s standard operating procedure — but it was stunning to hear them not only admit it but even volunteer the information.

      I know you don’t mean to offend people, but I know one person, very highly qualified person who has applied for more than 1,000 jobs in the past year, without actually securing a job. His problem is the one I have been writing about for YEARS — he is over age 35. And I’ve seen my foreign students apply to the same companies as he, without being more qualified, yet THEY get the interviews and eventually the job offers. So YES, what you said is offensive to him, and to many others. YOU are the blind boy touching the elephant, and saying irresponsible things about elephants on the basis of just feeling its trunk.

      Age is key to the H-1B issue. Even aside from the immobility aspect, young workers are cheaper than older ones. And that’s why staple-a-green-card is the wrong solution.

      If you don’t understand that, don’t worry. Even the critics of H-1B don’t understand it.


      • When I quit counting I had submitted over 10,000 applications and received 3 interviews and I was not selected probably because of age (I will turn 58 on 27 Dec).

        On the other end of the spectrum I have been fighting for five years to get hired in civil service at a entry level job like Food Service of Housekeeping, and still, as of today, I am not employed.

        If I can’t get hired at private industry or civil service, that leaves only starting a small business and after 12 years of no full time work, I have no money to do that even though I have the skills and the willingness to do so.


        I believe there is one thing that you are not seeing.

        If there are stories like mine all over the internet, they are not telling those stories for the fun of it.

        We have a saying here in Texas.

        Where there is smoke, there is fire


    • Black Jack,

      Specifically in the world of IT and engineering, things change at lightening pace. Frameworks and APIs that are the most vaunted are dumped for the next shiny technology.

      It seems like workers go through the exact same ebb and flow of the demand for their skills.
      In the past 10 years, I have had to take 8 new jobs only to survive. And I am pretty young.

      But after having immigrated to Canada over 2 decades ago, I have seen how my family members and their peers couldn’t get decent jobs because of their age.
      And it is indeed true that worker immobility is crucial to companies in every sector. I have personally seen American (I don’t want to mention race) CEOs and Hiring managers, take 2 days off to visit university campuses and thrown resumes in my face to filter those of students who had bachelor’s degrees from offshore schools and would *not* require the remmitance of all kinds of taxes.

      I was also mistreated in a company because I was on a visa (from Canada) but refused to be pushed around so I quit. I went to medical research lab company 6 months ago and Wipro technologies had 12 H1-B applications posted for “business analysts” at $62,000 apiece.

      A good business analyst can run into the $80,000+ range.

      There are those student and guest workers who say “well i make far far above the average at google, so I couldn’t possibly be harming an american worker. right?”


      Even though I am from canada, if I hadn’t been allowed to come here, my boss would’ve had to hire someone locally and where I am happy to work for … say 125K, he’d have to shell out 160. So even if you’re making a big salary, you added labour supply to the market. There are entire apartment complexes in suburban toronto from where Cognizant and HCL workers bus themselves to bank headquarters. It doesn’t matter how valuable or smart i might be today, once I turn 45, my health premiums will be too high, I won’t know the shiniest doojery-do, and certainly won’t be a frat boy brogrammer who can’t hang out late. All of those factors take away from my ability to show up on time, document things well, create and craft solutions and get things done.


  10. Any organization with the word “URBAN” in its title, is in bed with the U.N. and Agenda 21, which includes hyperurbanization of all nations, especially the U.S., as well as destroying borders and immigration laws to allow people to flow wherever the money is…. Especially Western Europe and the U.S.


  11. Our collective experience over the last 45 years shows this to be true. Immigration rates began to pick up around 1970 (as a result of the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965) and were greatly increased by an act of Congress in late 1990. During this same period, wages have stagnated and the middle class has shrunk.

    Immigration enthusiasts love to say that the economy is not a zero-sum game. Again, the facts on the ground say otherwise. Since at least 2007 (probably more likely 2000 or 2001), it has in fact been a zero-sum game as far as American workers are concerned. All of the net job gains since 2000 have gone to immigrants, and native-born Americans have lost jobs since 2000. Finally, there is a limit to how much the economy can grow in a finite country. The laws of physics dictate that ultimately the economy is a zero-sum game.


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