Google’s Eric Schmidt Wants H-1B Cap Lifted

Last September,  in attending a research conference on the MIT campus, I was startled to see that Google had recently opened a major new office near the university. Since I am a big fan of both the school and the company, I was pleased to see this; in fact, Google is located right across the street from my favorite Cambridge hotel.

That pleasant image, though, is now somewhat marred by remarks made last week at MIT by Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. CNN Money reports that Schmidt said, “The single stupidest policy in the entire American political system was the limit on H-1B visas.”

Again, I am a big fan of Google. I use it many times per day, still the best search engine out there for me, not only in general but also for Google Scholar, Google Books, Google Maps and so on. I greatly admired the company for taking its financially risky but principled and courageous stand in refusing to censor the Web in China.

But whenever one sees a company with an audacious motto like “Don’t be evil,” one must suspect that it cannot be completely true. The firm has been accused of age discrimination at various times, and as many readers of this blog know, the H-1B visa is in large part motivated by a desire hire young foreign workers in lieu of older U.S. citizens and permanent residents.  In this post, I’ll discuss both the age issue and H-1B, with regard to Google.

The firm fired one of its directors, Brian Reid, right before its IPO, depriving him of a multi-million dollar windfall. Claiming that he had regularly been subject to ageist remarks, Reid sued the company for age discrimination. Among other things, according to a New York Times article,

…[Reid’s] supervisors, including the company’s vice president for engineering operations, allegedly called him a poor “cultural fit,” an “old guy” and a “fuddy-duddy” with ideas “too old to matter.”

In addition, a report on the case by a law firm stated,

According to Reid, during his two years at Google, an executive to whom Reid occasionally reported (then aged 38) made age-related comments to Reid “every few weeks,” telling him that his ideas were “obsolete” and “too old to matter,” and that Reid was “slow,” “fuzzy,” “sluggish,” and “lack[ed] energy.”

Reid’s counsel retained me as an expert witness in the case. The case was eventually settled. I must make a disclaimer: I don’t know the terms of the settlement, and of course could not divulge them even if I did. I was asked to perform statistical analysis, which I did, but that was the extent of my involvement. I never even met Dr. Reid. However, for those who are interested, the appellate court’s decision is a matter of public record, and some of my findings are cited there, as well as Google’s criticism.

If Google had been engaging in age discrimination before, did they adopt more equitable policies afterwords? There are those who claim otherwise. Fortune reports there is another age discrimination suit currently in progress against the firm, and I do believe that ageism is rampant in the industry. The above NYT article paints a disturbing picture of the situation at Facebook (whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg once said that young people are the best programmers, though he later apologized):

Lori Goler, the head of human resources and recruiting efforts at Facebook, said her company was looking for the “college student who built a company on the side, or an iPhone app over the weekend.” The company also hires more-experienced workers, if “they are results-focused and can deliver again.”

Regardless of age, Ms. Goler said, “We ask: Are they going to get to do what they love to do for fun at work?”

Some observers say much of this language is just code for age discrimination.

The judge in the current litigation against Google seems to suspect this. According to the Fortune piece,

…U.S. District Judge Beth Freeman asked how age factors into a person’s “Googleyness” (a word used to describe the intangible factors that someone a good fit at Google)…

Keep all that in mind as we turn to H-1B, and Schmidt’s call for eliminating the cap on the visa. Again, there are two main senses in which employers abuse the visa.:

  • Younger workers are cheaper than older workers, and most H-1Bs are young.
  • If an H-1B is being sponsored for a green card, she becomes effectively immobile, tethered to the employer. This is a huge advantage to many employers. (Most of the firm’s green card sponsorees are H-1Bs, so for simplicity I will simply refer to them as H-1Bs.)

Let’s take the second of these points first. Google admitted, actually volunteered, to a group of us researchers in 2012 that they view the tethered nature of the green card process as a major reason to hire H-1Bs. Note that Google and Schmidt were found guilty of colluding with Apple and others to not “poach” each other’s engineers.

Concerning age, as I wrote in my recent Fortune op-ed, 96.1% of Google’s green card sponsorees are at Levels I and II. (The Facebook figure was 91.1%.) Level III represents the 50th percentile of wages for a given occupation and region, so Levels I and II represent below-median salaries. But my focus here is not on the wages in those levels, but rather that the levels represent experience levels, a proxy for age.

Like most Silicon Valley firms, Google tends to hire its H-1Bs as foreign students studying at U.S. universities, typically with a Master’s degree. Holders of that degree are generally considered Level II rather than I, since the degree takes one or two years to complete, time taken to be equivalent to that amount of experience.

In other words:

  • Virtually all (96%!) of Google’s H-1Bs are young.
  • If the company is indeed engaging in ageism, the H-1B visa program is the firm’s enabler for this.

Google may pay more than, say, the Bank of America, for the same job. But the relevant comparison is Google to Google. Young workers at Google of course generally make less than older Googlers. Data compiled by Payscale, while rough, shows the point: For Google’s Mountain View campus, workers with less than a year of experience have a median salary of $89,665; for the 5-9 years range, the figure is $112,478; and for 10-19 years the median is $134,426. So Google saves a ton of money by hiring young H-1Bs (who also will be even cheaper than young Americans).

In addition to the wage savings and the tethering, another attraction of the visa to employers is convenience of hiring. Students at university campuses are almost all young, and plenty of them are foreigners who hope to acquire green cards. In other words, the universities have exactly what the employers want — and thus there is no incentive to beat the bushes for Americans, especially those in the dreaded over-35 crowd.

I am certainly am not saying Google is hiring the “wrong” workers. The Google interviewing process is quite rigorous (though again, some say, either consciously or unconsciously aimed at the young), and the workers they hire are first-rate. They’ve hired excellent foreign students from my department. But I do submit that in most cases they could have hired an excellent American instead.

As I have said so often, reform of the H-1B visa program is impossible without addressing the age issue. It’s not just Google and Facebook. The much-publicized hiring of H-1Bs at Disney, Southern California Edison and so on also involved young foreign workers, much younger than the Americans they replaced. The notion, popular in some quarters, that we should protect American workers at Disney but not American applicants to Google, is just plain wrong.

Schmidt is wrong too. The H-1B cap should be cut, not lifted.




68 thoughts on “Google’s Eric Schmidt Wants H-1B Cap Lifted

  1. Your point is right on target, Norm. If it was really a matter of importing the “best” in a particular field, then the age distribution of H1-B’s should mirror that of society, not that of a college campus. How could Google or anyone else possibly know that an H1-B is one of the “best”, with zero track record and only a college transcript??

    Notice the performance bar is set higher for Americans than for foreigners, too. Nobody asks an H1-B to “build a company on the side” or “write an app over the weekend”. But these are considered key ingredients for an American to get hired. So why do Americans have to be entrepreneurial or innovative, but not H1-B’s?


  2. Do any of these guys push for expansion of the number of green cards? For a lifting of per country caps? For quicker processing? All we seem to hear about from industry is more H1-Bs, but of course, they benefit from the green card process as it exists.


    • Yes, they do suggest a green card stapled to every foreign students’ graduation diploma. Schmidt, in his CNN interview said – to avoid having foreign students return home/start business competition. A few flaws in his proposal:
      – foreign students come to take a class or for a certificate program. Attending a class or certificate program is not sensible to use for the definition of US immigration policy.
      – myth that foreign students are in US colleges because they’re top talent on the planet. Universities accept foreign students for “diversity”, to fill unnecessary degree programs and money, not because all or most are “top talent”. University admittance policies are not sensible to use for the definition of US immigration policy.
      – to avoid competition from foreign countries. Most absurd, as a) the majority of H-1Bs are Indian and Chinese, and given their populations of billions, this wouldn’t stop overseas competition, and b) unrealistic tech international monopoly is not sensible use of US immigration policies.

      If his goal is stop international competition due to returning foreign students, the answer would be: stop university admittance _preference_ given to foreign students.


  3. IMO if the H-1B cap is eliminated as was suggested by some, there will be hundreds of thousands of H-1B workers in the country for jobs not only in STEM but also in the business, education and medical professions. Soon there will be the demand to allow dependents work; the would likely be allowed to work in any position.

    In addition to the basic issue of jobs comes along the problems of the use of social support programs, “visiting” parents, and periods of illegal presence including long term overstay.


    • Education and medical professions are already getting hammered by H-1B.
      Lowest approved LCA in the 2016 database: teacher, @$7.25 an hour.
      PhD glut at colleges also reflected in the 2016 database: $21 an hour, at universities.
      Medical, I’ve not particularly looked at in the database but nearby nurses (neighbors) tell me they’re getting wiped out by it.


      • In addition, the educational requirements for medical fields are less than those in the US. When a foreign trained physician is able to do the equivalent of undergraduate, medical school and internship in 5.5 years; our US trained physicians generally take 9 years.

        The medical groups in my area have many foreign trained physicians. One of the key qualifications I look for is whether they are now Board Certified. I am amazed at the number who have been in practice in the US for over 20 years who are not.


  4. I wonder how you came up with the number of 96.1% of Google’s green card sponsorees being hired under median wage, which I find very hard to believe from personal experience as well as summaries available on If you could elaborate that would be great. Thanks.


    • Short answer: As I explained in replying to your other post today, my use of Levels I and II in my posting last night was focused on AGE, not WAGE.

      Long answer: The prevailing wage issue is tricky. It does not take into account the fact that the employers claim the H-1Bs are of higher-than-average quality, either because they possess rare skill sets or because they are “geniuses.” For either one of those traits, one would have to pay a premium on the open market, which the prevailing wage scales do NOT take into account. Now, if you believe Glassdoor, go there, plug in San Jose for the region, Google for the employer, Software Engineer for the job title, and then try various levels of experience. Needless to say, workers with low levels of experience, i.e. the YOUNGER ones, get much lower salaries.


      • And yet H-1B violates its own assertions: flooding the labor market with more H-1Bs drives down the prevailing wage due to oversupply, which then allows companies to pay the (new) prevailing wage which is now lower. By very definition, H1B lowers the prevailing wage – which is exactly what companies want.


  5. I meant… doesn’t show wage levels relative to prevailing wages, but the wages seem quite high for Google employees and usually the green card sponsorees’ wages are even higher than H1-Bs according to BTW great books on R programming from a computer scientist’s perspective!


    • Thanks for the compliment.

      Concerning prevailing wage levels, please note my statement that no matter what, the fact that Google is hiring almost exclusively at Levels I and II tells us they are hiring YOUNG people.

      Green card wages should be higher than for the H-1Bs, since the GC wage can be set at what the worker will be making at the future date when his green card comes through.


      • Hi Norm,

        1. How is it possible to find the “real” wages H1-b’s are being paid while they “wait for GC”? That would expose the industry’s claim of ‘we are sponsoring our H1-b’s at good wages (and the hidden part: we only promise to pay those wages when they get their GC in 10 years and we have no liability whatsoever to retain that employee after he/she gets their GC)’.

        2. Related to the above point, I have learned from your past posts that the H1-b’s (not all, but maybe a sizeable chunk of them), will be in the same boat as Citizens after they get their GC.
        (Citizens’ boat meaning unemployed/underemployed)

        So, do companies use the H1-b’s for the “indentured period” and then fire them when get more expensive?
        (Maybe not all companies but is there a trend with this hiring H1-b’s and firing them after they get GC?)
        Have you heard about any of the Intel’s firing their just GC’ed H1-b’s?

        3. Businesses always find a way to maintain their competitive edge and Google with all the resources they have, can’t they bring the people they want with L1 visa / something else. The Infosyses are bringing a lot of people on those visas and this claim from Google as if H1-b is the only door in is kind of hard to believe especially since Google probably has equal or more resources than the Infosyses and their immigration lawyers can find creative ways to bring people in. All they would need to do is recruit the genius they want in their India / China / other global office and move them here.


        • One always try the Freedom of Information Act. George W. Bush made it harder to get FOIA, and Obama continued that harsher policy. But even with such data (I do have it for one year), you only know what the H-1B was making at the time of hire, not during employment.

          Once an H-1B gets a green card, they have the option to leave. If the employer thinks this worker has outlived his usefulness, they won’t give him the raise he deserves, and he will lave on his own.

          Google etc. definitely make use of L-1, as a way around the H-1B cap. They hire someone, park her in an overseas branch of the company, then bring her back on L-1 after a year.


        • Mr. came as an F1, on “scholarship” for Masters. How flattering. Except his min wage bachelor degree’d labor as “research assistant”, billed out as university research for big bucks, paid for that “free” scholarship many times over.
          Next up, H-1B. Now with a Masters, paid what an average new grad with a Bachelors was paid 3 years earlier.
          Next up, working as H-1B with GC pending, complaints, ignored by manager. Upon GC arriving, same manager/same complaints, “Who do you think you are, now that you have a green card?”, and he was laid off.


          • >> Upon GC arriving, same manager/same complaints, “Who do you think you are, now that you have a green card?”, and he was laid off.

            That’s true for all non-backlogged nationalities. While backlogged nationals will never get the pink slip as they are indentured for life. What more does the employer want?


        • “How is it possible to find the “real” wages H1-b’s are being paid”
          It isn’t possible. There is nothing that tracks that. Best case they could eval W2 versus LCA (which they don’t) but even that there were just Turkish teacher H-1Bs on TV complaining their employer made them give some of their salary back, and some others in Louisiana complaining agent who placed them in teacher jobs charged them a percentage of their salary and placed them in housing and took “rent” from them claiming it was for their housing.
          This congressman, Issa, says it’s perfectly legal to change salary paid an H-1B, though I doubt the DOL would agree with him.

          $2M in wage theft just in the first few years of this visa spinning up and that is only the number who complained to the DOL.
          pg 22, underpaid, over $2M, within 4.5 years, by 2000


  6. Mr. Matloff – I’m a data scientist, and I’m slightly confused by your assertion that 96.1% Google’s green card sponsorees are paid below median wages. I did find out (from the Foreign Labor Certification Data Center site) that Level 3 represents the *mean* wage. Here’s an example:

    Could you provide the source saying that Level 3 is indeed the median wage (thereby supporting your oft repeated assertion that “Levels I and II represent below-median salaries”)? I’m guessing I don’t need to explain the potential issues arising out of equating means with medians, especially for right skewed distributions like salaries.


      • Mr Matloff,
        The link you provided also presents a fundamental misunderstanding of how percentiles and medians work. I’m hoping you did not draw your conclusions based on this.

        “Level 1 is the mean of the lowest-paid 1/3, or approximately the 17th percentile; Level 2 is approximately the 34th percentile; Level 3 is approximately the 50th percentile; and Level 4 is the mean of
        the highest-paid 2/3, or approximately the 67th percentile.”

        Allowing for the “*mean* of the lowest paid 1/3 is approximately 17th percentile” – how is the mean of the highest-paid 2/3 “approximately 67th percentile”????

        The document you sent repeatedly references OES as it’s source of data – and OES sets Level 3 as the mean – not the median.

        Quoting from your Fortune article – “For software developers, the most common type of foreign tech worker, the green card data show the following percentages of foreign workers at Levels I or II making below-median wages: Amazon 91%; Facebook 91%; and Google 96%. These firms, putatively in the vanguard of advanced technology and certainly in the vanguard in Capitol Hill lobbying regarding H-1B, are paying almost all of the foreign workers wages below the median for the given region”

        I understand the need to fit data to narrative, but this feels like disappointingly bad analysis, in the least. Please correct me if I’m wrong.



        • You are correct that they take the mean within the given level. and you are correct that one cannot go into such minutiae in an op-ed or for that matter a blog post.

          In fact, there are tons of these things. I could, for instance, have noted that in the green card application, the employer can state the salary that the foreign worker is expected to be making when the green card comes through, years from now — a figure that would likely be considerably higher than what the worker is making currently. I could have talked about the games that employers and their lawyers play with job titles, in order to get a lower prevailing wage rating.

          Subject to those constraints, I believe my post accurately conveys the gravity of the situation. It is absolutely clear that the vast majority of Google’s foreign workers in software development are young. I assume you don’t dispute that.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Mr. Matloff – as a fellow statistician, I think you fully understand what I’m getting at here. Op-eds (and certainly blog entries) can easily have footnotes explaining the assumptions made, but in this case, that would have given you away.

            Conveying the gravity of a tumultuous situation is great, but deliberately fudging numbers (that’s precisely what you’re doing here) to further your case while wearing the cloak of “statistical analysis” and “unbiased thinking” is willful deception. In fact, these are the exact kind of confirmation-bias oriented arguments that you actively protest in many of your posts.

            The impressive sounding 96% et al falsehoods represent crucial evidence of your argument in your Fortune op-ed – I’m surprised and disappointed that you haven’t been called out for a retraction on them.


          • You apparently have no idea what an op-ed is. Footnotes?!

            96.1% of Google’s GC sponsorees are at the lowest two levels for their occupation and region. That is a FACT, which you can verify for yourself. And yes, that FACT is indeed crucial evidence in my argument.

            As I said yesterday, I would have loved to write a more detailed op-ed, and explain for example that it is legal for the employer to write a higher salary in the GC application than what he is currently making. In other words, the situation is even worse than what I described in the op-ed. But I was already about their word count limit, and had the settle for less detail. All op-ed writers must deal with this. One thing I do regret is not having a link to my detailed research papers.

            I hope you continue this conversation. But as I did with RH67, I will impose a condition on my allowing you to keep posting here. Just answer one simple question: Do you believe in the laws of economics, and their implication for salaries made by immobile workers? You don’t have to have an economics degree for this.


  7. > That pleasant image, though, is now somewhat marred by remarks made last week at MIT by Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. CNN Money reports that Schmidt said, “The single stupidest policy in the entire American political system was the limit on H-1B visas.”

    Agreed. That comment is essentially saying, “I, the great Eric Schmidt, have surveyed all policies in the entire American political system and have concluded that the limit on H-1B visas is the stupidest”. It also suggests that there are no problems or abuses of H-1B visas and that the best policy is to just remove all limits on them. Schmidt’s comment is about as thoughtful as my saying, “The single stupidest businessman in all of America is Eric Schmidt.” You really can’t take people who make such incredibly broad statements seriously.

    > Virtually all (96%!) of Google’s H-1Bs are young.

    Yes, this is true of all H-1Bs. As can be seen in the third graph and table at , over 80 percent of H-1Bs are under 35 at the time of their initial approval. The latest percentages can be seen in Table 5 at .


    • Once again I will make the point that under US H-1Bs are both legally and economically only to be used when there is no SURPLUS of workers. If there is a SURPLUS of US workers, then US law REQUIRES that Americans be hired first. Period. H-1B was and always has been a LIMITED SHORTAGE visa. Since there is clearly no shortage now, H-1B cannot be legal.

      Hence Dr Schmidt’s assertion is both advocating breaking Federal law, AND using H-1B as it was no intended to be used. If there should be no limit on H-1Bs, then isn’t that in reality just saying we should have open borders since no limit means anyone can come in?

      Given all the fraud already in the H1B program, it seems likely a no-limit H-1B would attract every fraudster from every country on earth.

      Is that what an educated, intelligent American with a PhD should be advocating?


    • Schmidt is is in fact possibly the stupidest businessman in all of the USA.

      He spent $700 MILLION of Novell’s money in the 90s to acquire Wordperfect – a move that almost drove Novell into oblivion as it ran out of cash after that.

      Genius. Amazing the sorts of people they will give PhDs to these days.


  8. From the CNN link:

    “Schmidt made it clear that when it came to H-1B reform, he was speaking from a business perspective: “I’m not going to make the moral argument because that’s pretty obvious,” he added.”

    What is “the moral argument”?


    • > “Schmidt made it clear that when it came to H-1B reform, he was speaking from a business perspective: “I’m not going to make the moral argument because that’s pretty obvious,” he added.”

      > What is “the moral argument”?

      I would bet that the moral argument is that we should help workers who face obstacles from living in the third world to reach their dreams. This points to the fact that arguments should always be made publicly, regardless of how obvious its holders thinks they are. I would, in fact, agree that those of us who are better off may have some moral obligation to help those who are not. But the solution is not to say:

      “Look at that poor person who cannot find a job to achieve their potential and fulfill their dreams. Let’s give him your job (speaking to an older American programmer) and let’s have Google accept the burden of higher profits and have Eric Schmidt accept the burden of a higher salary”.

      Of course, if the argument were made publicly, the suggested burden-sharing would be much more equitable. Unfortunately, it seems that some people who are paid high salaries become very arrogant and start to think that they are brilliant in every field, including public policy. That seems to be the case with Eric Schmidt.


      • My moral argument is HIRE AMERICANS FIRST. Why should an ethnic minority here on a guest worker visa have priority over an equally well or better qualified American simply because of their ethnicity? Why should a foreign national be able to displace a US citizen male simply because she is female?

        Liked by 1 person

        • My guess is that Schmidt meant that there is a moral imperative to hire “the best and the brightest,” regardless of where there is from. This is good for the company and good for the nation. I agree, except that the vast majority of H-1Bs just aren’t in that league.


          • If they are the best and brightest, why are they going to school here?

            And if they went to school in India, why does quartz india say they are doing so bad?


          • I continue to believe that taking “the best and brightest” from third world countries is immoral since these are the very people needed to bring that country into the twenty-first century. This is especially the case when the individual has been educated in the US. I believe that the intent of the student visa programs, especially since it is expected that the participants not have immigrant intent, was that the participants were to return home where their new knowledge and skills are, in many cases, desperately needed to assist in the development of the graduates’ countries.

            I believe that the world of today is very different than the world of the prior periods of immigration surges and that the immigrants are very different due to changes in US immigration law and the ease of travel compared to that of even 50 years ago. The world will benefit from an individuals contributions no matter where they are made. US immigration law supports family reunification; this should also mean that it also supports that US citizens should not have to leave the US to find work as is now the case when H-1Bs replace citizens or current permanent residents to the point that there are no available positions for the US worker. If the neighborhood is a mess, one can either fix the neighborhood or flee. Running away is a lot easier than staying for the fight.

            This reference is one of my favorite on immigration: What is most informative is not the numbers of immigrants from the various regions but the reasons for the immigration.


          • Cathy:

            The best and the brightest usually don’t achieve much in stultifying environments, which is why many of them try to leave their countries and seek out greener pastures.

            And your comment about people needing to stay on and fight instead of running away makes superficial sense until you consider the fact that any real improvement in their home countries will only come about with sea changes in cultures, something that won’t occur within the lifetimes of these peoples.

            Unless, of course, you are asking people to fight in their home (or ancestral) countries Bolshevik-style (or, to take an extreme example, ISIS-style.)

            If some kid in a poor country is fascinated by rocket science and shows aptitude for it, is it so bad for him/her to seek out employment opportunities at NASA instead of forcing them to hunker down and build toilets, or become activists and fight corruption, etc. Or wait until their country gets rich enough to build its own space program, something that will likely not happen within their lifetimes?

            Prof. Matloff,

            A general comment: I have read enough of your blog and others like it to understand the (justified) angst that immigration and guest worker programs cause among ordinary Americans. But in their comments I see virtually no empathy, no understanding of the predicament that people in poorer countries find themselves in. Is such lack of empathy the hallmark of the “America First” ethos?


          • Actually, I have made many of your same arguments myself over the years. Developing countries need worker bees for technology, not brilliant innovators, and cannot provide opportunities that will make good use of the latter group’s talents. I’ve stated this many times. Hence my constant support for actually liberalizing our policies for bringing in “the best and the brightest.”

            I share your empathy for the poor in the developing world. It is the reason I originally went into the statistics field (perhaps misguidedly) as a math student, and it is the reason that I oppose elitist immigration policies.

            Yet, having said that, I cannot consider the major H-1B sending countries to still be quite in the Third World category. Certainly in the case of China, everyone, even in rural areas, has fairly good access to food, clothing, education and medical care. China is still not nearly as well off as the U.S., but people there are doing OK. India, sadly, is well behind China in this regard, but even in its case there are good opportunities for “the best and the brightest” to make good use of their talents.

            As to “American First,” I have to say that the phrasing makes me wince but the concept itself does not. Trade and immigration policies are being set without the consent of the governed, and generally not to their benefit.

            The H-1B issue has brought mild harm to a great many Americans, and catastrophic harm to a few, including at least one very public suicide. I do believe you should have more empathy for the victims.


          • Professor,

            Thanks for taking the time to respond. It was not your opinions (which are well-researched and nuanced) that I was reacting to, but those of your blog’s commenters (or at least some of them.)

            In my earlier comment, I did say that I found Americans’ angst over immigration and guest workers to be justified, but let me now clearly state that I fully empathize with Americans who have been hard done by this program. I, for one, would not want to have to train my replacement as a condition for getting severance benefits after being fired. Corporate America (corporates anywhere really) is rather brutal, and thinks of employees as little more than expensive machinery. (I am well aware of your studies on foreigners getting hired in lieu of Americans, and the age issue, but I just picked the most egregious abuse.)

            Can I offer an alternative explanation for the simultaneous existence of unemployed American software engineers (or employed in different professions) and the never-ending demand for guest workers? An explanation that does not involve ageism, cheap labor, or immobile labor. This is drawn both from my personal (albeit limited) interview experiences and from extensive reading of online message boards on the subject. There is this impression among professionals (techies as well as managers) that talent, productivity, and contributions are sort-of normally distributed, even among CS graduates. Therefore, a top programmer is 10x (or 100x) more valuable than the average programmer. So even if an interview candidate seems “qualified”, companies reject them as they want to hold out for so-called superstars. Couple this with the complete lack of interest of such companies in training their new employees; they want every hire to hit the ground running. The profile they seek seems to fit mid-to-high-ranked graduate CS programs, which are (as you know) dominated by foreign students (mainly Indians and Chinese.) Hence the demographic make-up of these companies’ guest workers.

            When you conduct studies showing that these companies reject perfectly qualified candidates, and statistical studies show a correlation of rejection with age and nationality (being a US citizen), perhaps the disconnect is that you have one bar, whereas many of these companies have two: “qualified” and “superstar” (or potential superstar.)

            Anyway, I’ve prattled on for too long. Perhaps you have already discussed (and rejected) this theory. If so, perhaps you can provide a link? Otherwise, can you critique it?


          • Certainly there is a huge range of programming skill, and yes, I have written extensively about this. I would not want most CS graduates, foreign or domestic, designing the software that runs the airplanes I ride on.

            But I have seen many, many American job applicants who have stellar CVs but don’t even get a phone interview.

            The foreign students in CS and STEM in general are NOT concentrated in the upper-rank schools. It’s actually just the opposite. See my EPI paper.

            I’ve also mentioned many times that a big attraction of hiring H-1Bs among many employers is that the foreign worker becomes essentially immobile, especially if the employer is sponsoring her for a green card. Given two job applicants of equal quality, the foreign one is more attractive, and Google has explicitly stated this.


        • “he (Eric) was speaking from a business perspective: “I’m not going to make the moral argument because that’s pretty obvious,”

          I think what Eric means is that he and Google have a moral duty to do what is best for the company and its investors. Remember, he is “speaking from a business perspective”. According to one source, the only moral duty a company has towards society is to obey the law.

          Eric said, “We want them to work for us and not our competitors — we want 100% market share of all those people! ” Clearly a selfish view that favors Google and its investors and not US workers.


          • Numinous wrote:

            > But in their comments I see virtually no empathy, no understanding of the predicament that people in poorer countries find themselves in. Is such lack of empathy the hallmark of the “America First” ethos?

            > When you conduct studies showing that these companies reject perfectly qualified candidates, and statistical studies show a correlation of rejection with age and nationality (being a US citizen), perhaps the disconnect is that you have one bar, whereas many of these companies have two: “qualified” and “superstar” (or potential superstar.)

            You seem to be making two different arguments. Regarding the first, I have developed a good bit of empathy for people from poorer countries, having worked with many of them. My complaint is that tech companies make the false claim that the their actions are driven simply by a lack of qualified candidates. As I stated in my message above, if they made the argument that we should all do what we can to help those from poorer countries, then we could come up with a more equitable sharing of the burden. Tech companies could do their part by supporting programs or lower-paying jobs that older native programmers could move into and those older native programmers could accept their somewhat lower pay or some help from safety nets. Instead, tech companies claim that those older native programmers who were perfectly qualified a decade ago have now become unqualified to do anything technical and should be dumped. As their part of the burden, the tech companies accept their higher profits and the CEO’s accept their higher salaries.

            Your second argument is that the tech companies have discovered that there are a large number of superstars in the world who are willing to come the this country because they can find better opportunties here and/or they desire U.S. citizenship. Perhaps they believe that are enough such superstars that tech companies can effectively dump all native programmers who are in the lower 90 percent of skill level and replace them with foreign programmers from the top 10 percent. Once again, if they were to openly make that argument, we would be much better off. Then we could properly tell American students that they would do well not to go into programming unless they truly show the promise of being superstars. We could tell all programmers that they should likely save more of their earnings because there a fair chance that they will fall from superstar status when they turn 50. Those who are not superstars would know to go into another line of work and we could develop programs for those who need to make the transition. Instead, tech companies push the lie that there is a large shortage of qualified, or even trainable, candidates. I have people tell me that, with over 15 years of C++ and Java, it should be simple for me to find a job. Yet I can hardly get any companies to even look at my resume. If tech companies would openly admit to one or both of these arguments – that we need to help people from the poor countries and/or that they only want to hire superstars, we would all be better off. Instead, I suspect that they will continue to push the shortage of qualified STEM workers argument. That avoids having to admit that any of those unemployed native workers are being treated unfairly or deserve any assistance. After all, if they are unemployed, they must be unqualified.


    • I believe “the moral argument” according to industry is that the US and its citizenry is obligated to compensate H-1B and other immigrant labor with LPR/citizenry for their cheap labor donation to the record profit industry.
      This is similar to Clinton’s discerning amnesty for illegal immigrants who’ve donated 4 years or more to illegal employer in the form of labor for suppressed or no wages.
      I generally refer to this as all privilege, no responsibilities (we, the 1%, get the profits, you, the public, get the bill).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I question the quality of content of this h1bdatainfo web site’s data, which they claim on their site is the federal LCA database.

    I have a copy of the federal 2016 database and it says: Google’s lowest salary for certified LCA is $32552
    At the web site you listed above, Google’s 2016 lowest salary certified, $67,900.
    Similar disparity for Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Intel, Wipro, JPMorgan, and Bloomberg, all of which show a higher bottom salary at h1bdatainfo than in the actual LCA federal database.

    Cisco and Yahoo are the only matches of lowest salary for certified LCA, of my hasty sampling.

    Furthermore, they post a median salary, and given this data they display contains LCAs that are denied and withdrawn, I question the median.

    Next, “the wages seem quite high for Google employees”
    – for their profession? No.
    – for their location? No.
    – for H-1B’s purported expertise? No.
    Their wage levels, in comparison with the above, are not “quite high”.

    I have the PERM databases but haven’t run salary numbers on them.


  10. Either eliminate the H1-B program entirely or proscecute CEOs for breaking federal law and imprison them. Only a few will be needed before the rest get with the program.


  11. Mr. Matloff,
    Thank you for the opportunity to continue the conversation. To answer your question – yes, I absolutely believe in the laws of economics, and their implication for salaries made by immobile workers. I haven’t questioned either in my comments.

    Here’s a simple yes/no question for you in response – do you stand by the following assertion and numbers in your Fortune op-ed (including the asterisk points), even after acknowledging the fatal flaw above?

    “Those critics point out that the Infosyses tend to pay below-average wages. But so do U.S. firms. The wage rules for H-1B and green card sponsorship are broken down into Levels I, I, III and IV, *with Level III being the median*. For software developers, the most common type of foreign tech worker, the green card data show the following percentages of foreign workers at Levels I or II *making below-median wages* : Amazon 91%; Facebook 91%; and Google 96%. These firms, putatively in the vanguard of advanced technology and certainly in the vanguard in Capitol Hill lobbying regarding H-1B, are paying almost all of the foreign workers wages below the median for the given region”



    • MJ, forgive me, but you are attempting to claim expertise based on seeing a very brief part of a complex issue that you do not understand. For example, the OES data include both means and medians, contrary to your statement.

      To answer your question, yes, absolutely, I stand by what I wrote. It was a fair analysis, and the DOL does take Level III to be approximately the 50th percentile, i.e. the median. It’s right there in black and white for all to see. I would write the same again.

      Your talk of “a fatal flaw” reminds me of a class I took when I was an undergraduate. The professor found a typo in the textbook, and he said, “You can rip that page out of your book and throw it away!”, a comment that makes me chuckle, many years later.

      The industry lobbyists love to do pounce upon “flaws” whenever they see research that has results critical of H-1B. I’m proud to say they’ve never done so with me, not even once, even though they criticized other researchers.

      Now, just to be clear: I take it that you agree that the tethering of the foreign workers means that, on average, they will be paid less than what they would get on the open market?


      • Mr Matloff,
        You’re taking an inductive leap in criticizing my understanding – if you look through my comments, I have not expressed any subjective belief regarding this complex issue. I absolutely agree with your statement that “the tethering of the foreign workers means that, on average, they will be paid less than what they would get on the open market”.

        I simply disagree with the assertion that Amazon, Facebook and Google pay more than 90% of their H1B employees below median wage.

        I do not see how one implies the other.



  12. The issue is that money chases money and businesses will cheat to get more money. Voters need to vote for those with a track record to regulate in favor of people. Businesses are users of people and, therefore, they should be paying for students to go to school, because, in the end they will use those students after graduation for their own benefit, They will use those students either to buy their product or to work for them.


  13. Thank you. Such unbridled greed. It’s not like Zuckerberg is struggling to buy his first house.

    And how many cases have there been of foreign high tech workers selling our trade secrets?


  14. All those Google salaries are higher than the same H-1B could get in Los Angeles. If Google promises to empty Los Angeles of H-1Bs, I’m all for it.


  15. Another take on the H1B visa system, for a company like Google, is that the program allows them to train and acclimate an entire population of overseas workers at HQ. They can bring them here, teach them American work habits and systems, then send them home already prepared for the eventual expansion of the company in their native country. They are creating an installed base of workers for an overseas expansion.


  16. Unfortunately, it is not just corporate trade secrets being misappropriated by foreign nationals. University funded research in the interest of national defense and homeland security is being transferred by both faculty and students/post docs to foreign institutions and governments. To add insult to injury, federally funded travel budgets are financing some of the travel of individuals doing the sensitive research to countries known to be involved in espionage.


  17. You seem to talk a lot about h1b in tech mostly but not sure if you know a large percentage of management consulting is also run by h1b as well, wonder what your thoughts are?


    • H-1B is abused in all the fields I’ve seen. I talk about software developers because they are the most numerous, but for example it’s just as bad in statistics/data science.


    • McKinsey comes to mind, which back in the day was CEO’ed by an H1B from India. McKinsey was one of the first companies adovocating offshoring – not surprisingly. Delloite currently has an Indian national originally on H1B. Much of the offshoring hype we hear in fact comes from foreign CEOs and the paid PR firms their companies hire.

      At one smaller software company I was a dev at in 2004, the (Indian H1B) VP of Dev told me “We need to have control so we can make the hiring and offshoring decisions”.


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